Saturday, March 30, 2013

RedHeads ROCK the Liebster Award!


She travels.

She blogs.

She's a REDHEAD!

She's a LOT like me!!

SO … what's NOT to love about Vicki of redheadedtravels.com fame?

Especially now that she's passed me the poisoned chalice of the LIEBSTER Award …

It seems that the origins of this blog-lovin' award that recognises blogging fabulousness (well, I got it, didn't I?) by highlighting selected blogs and profiling the bloggers who made them happen have been lost in the mists of time!

So, today I'm sticking with Vicki's rules – here's how to play! 
  1. Share 11 Random Facts about yourself
  2. Answer Vicki's 11 questions
  3. Share the pain joy by nominating another 11 bloggers. Give them your own 11 questions to answer; and tell them you've nominated them!



Red Nomad Revealed: 11 Random Facts about ME!
  • My left eye is blue and my right eye is black. I've scared a lot of young children by pretending I'm an alien …

Red & Pilchard at Mt Kosciuszko Summit - Highest Point in Australia!
  • … which technically I am. I was born in New Zealand! But if you want to observe a real, live deportation, you'll be disappointed. I'm an Australian citizen!!

  • AND … a loud and proud Aussie traveller. Just don't ask me where my favourite place is – I'm so fickle it's generally the last place I've been to! At this point, that makes it the Snowy Mountains ...
  • ...where the highest I've ever been (without flying) is 2228 metres – the top of Mt Kosciuszko, highest point in Australia …
  •  … which I climbed to celebrate a significant birthday. I'll leave you to guess which one!


BLACK Sunset at Lake Pamamaroo, Menindee Lakes, New South Wales
 

  • BLACK is my favourite colour. But for those pedants purists who insist it's NOT a colour, RED comes a very close second …
What's NOT to love about RED? When it looks like this Eucalypt bark in the Snowy Mountains, that is!
 
  • … closely followed by other colours like Blue. And Green! Actually, ALL the colours of the Rainbow – so I've started some Pinterest boards to capture the Colours of OZ!
  • But RED features prominently in many parts of OZ – including my choice for quintessential Aussie landscape photo! 
Dingo at Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia
 
  • I'm loudly and proudly an amateur photographer! My photos complement my diary as a visual record of what I actually see on my travels ...
Sugar Pines near Batlow, New South Wales
  • … which means I rarely leave the house without my 'camera equipment' (aka one point and click camera) …
  • … and I leave creating art by post-production photographic manipulation to the experts! If my camera doesn't do it, it doesn't happen SO ... this is as good as it gets for me!


RED HOT: The GRILL – from Vicki:

My answers to Vicki's questions:

 
1 What is your favourite Ice Cream Flavour?

I've been told not to bother turning up to dinner parties unless I bring my own concoction involving fresh cherries, cranberries, brandy, nuts, lemon juice, brown sugar and ginger swirled through a homemade vanilla ice cream base and covered in chocolate sauce. OMG I love my own cooking ...

2 What is something you wish you could do really well?


Oldest Bakery in Australia - Gundagai, New South Wales
Lose weight! But … that's probably not going to happen in THIS lifetime with so many as yet undiscovered Aussie bakeries just waiting for a Red Nomad OZ visit!

 
3 If you had the chance to have lunch with one person (living or dead) who would it be?

That would depend on the lunch location.

So for example, it it's in the Outback, I'd choose Aussie poet Andrew 'Banjo' Paterson or Eulo Queen Hotel publican Isabel Robinson. In Central Australia, I'd choose activist for Aboriginal rights Olive Pink or Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. In the Riverland, I'd choose Aussie author Nancy Cato or explorer Captain Charles Sturt.

But for lunch on top of Australia's highest mountain Mt Kosciuszko? There's only ONE choice!! Pilchard's the man!


The Big Trout, Adaminaby, New South Wales
4 What makes you smile?

The anticipation of finding another Aussie BIG Thing! Or a cool Travel Sign!!

5 What activity recharges your energy?

Apart from travelling and eating?

That frisson of excitement when landscape, experience, colour, texture and novelty amalgamate into an instant of such staggering perfection I gasp involuntarily. And try to photograph it!

6 What is the best Festival you've ever been to?

I'm an each-way bet kinda gal. So it's a toss up between the Bedourie Camel Races and the Kununurra Agricultural Show!
 
Camel Racing at Bedourie, Outback Queensland



How DO you decide between a) eating a plateful of Cocky's joy while watching the boys from the bush clear the racetrack after a whole mess of camels have thundered down it; or b) watching your very first Cane Toad race while sucking down a frozen chocolate coated banana with a mango smoothie chaser??

A little diversion before the race - Thommo's strange way with Cane Toads ...


7 What social network do you use the most?

The 'actual' one. You can't beat talking to real, live 'people' – even better if they're literal 'friends' – using actual 'words' in a 'conversation'.

Old Pub sign, Hamilton Hotel via Winton
But its also gr8 2 cre8 Twttr msg 4u with linx 2 cool #OZ #travel stuff & killer #Aussie pix 2 make u ask OZ? YNOT? All in ONLY 140 chrctrs!

For a piece of THAT action, visit @RedNomadOZ!

 
8 Why did you start your travel blog?

The short version? To share the best of OZ with the world.

The long version? Check out my first post HERE!



9 Where did you get your first passport stamp?

HHHMMMmmm … too young to remember. Quite possibly Fiji – but I was on my Mum's passport then. Does that count?


Arty Sunset Shot - Boab tree at Derby, the Kimberley, Western Australia
10 What one item do you never travel without?

It's a tough choice between good maps, travel insurance and ear-plugs. In fact, I can't decide. So YOU tell ME – which is the most important?!?!

Snake on the road, Mt William, Grampians, Victoria
11 Dogs or cats?

Neither. A mongoose is the ONLY choice for an Ophidiophobic.


Share the Liebster LOVE:

And here are the lucky(!) bloggers I've nominated (in no particular order) …
  1. Saucy Kod at Saucy Kodz Blog
  2. Kerry at A Novel Journey
  3. Glen at Glens Life
  4. SFlaGuy at South Florida Guy

Your questions, should you choose to participate, are as follows:
  • What's your favourite colour?
  • What is the absolute BEST thing to eat?
  • You're on a deserted island and you can choose one person to join you. Who is it?
  • What scares you rigid?
  • What's your favourite way to pass the time on a long journey?
  • Where are you going for your next holiday?
  • If you were to visit and/or travel in Australia, what would you most like to see?
  • What's your all-time favourite book?
  • What's your most popular blog post (define that however you like!)?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • What's your favourite quote?
Poplars at Lake Jindabyne, Snowy Mountains New South Wales

And as I leave you with this gratuitous arty shot of Poplars reflected on Lake Jindabyne, I hope you've enjoyed the Liebster as much as I have!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The “Daleks” of Khancoban


Khancoban Pondage at Sunset, New South Wales
Aglow in the setting sun, the Khancoban Pondage encircled with impossibly high mountains* was a calendar shot just waiting to happen**.

So picturesquely pleasing, the scene seemed perfect.

Too perfect …

Reflections at Khancoban Pondage, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales


From the vantage point of our campsite in the Khancoban Lakeside Holiday Resort we wondered if instead of just crossing the border over the River Murray from Victoria into New South Wales, we'd inadvertently stumbled through a portal into another country.

Was this REALLY Australia?

Who knew what may have been unleashed when the tunnels deep beneath the Snowy Mountain Range towering behind us were blasted over 60 years ago??

Still life with Pelican at Khancoban Pondage, New South Wales


Ahead of its time and considered one of the engineering wonders of the modern world, the complex series of tunnels, lakes*** and dams of the Snowy Mountains Scheme that harness and divert the Snowy River for irrigation and hydro-electricity flow ever downwards to the Khancoban Pondage.

Where in a setting so soporifically serene its hard to imagine what's buried within the mountains behind, we fall asleep only to awaken to the rising sun, lighting the pondage from the other side.

Dawn at Khancoban Pondage, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales


Yes, it really IS too otherworldly.

BUT … there's good reason for it.

Murray 1 Power Station, Khancoban
Just a few kilometres up the road at the start of the Alpine Way traversing the Snowy Mountains to link Khancoban with the much higher skiing village of Thredbo, the Murray 1 Power Station viewing platform looks down to an astonishing sight.

Through its windows far below, we spotted them.

Yes, although they're cunningly disguised as generators, their distinctive and unmistakeable shape wouldn't fool a die-hard Dr Who fan for a moment!



Daleks? At Khancoban??

The "Daleks" of Khancoban


Did the Snowy Mountains Scheme blasting that tunnelled under the mountains apart crack open a portal? Maybe the influx of 100,000 overseas workers who helped build the Scheme include some aliens?? Or perhaps they've been enslaved – doomed forever to produce clean, green energy for Australia, the uncanny perfection of the Khancoban Pondage a distraction from what lies beneath …

Although the authorities will doubtless deny that the Snowy Mountains Scheme was just a front to contain a Dalek invasion of Earth, it's surely not impossible.

Is that a Dalek I see before me?!?!
Is it??

* By Australian standards!!
** But not for long …
*** aka 'Pondages'

Read MORE:

G - this one's for you!

PS  For a fresh look at Water from around the world, visit Nature Footstep's Waters!  You won't regret it ...


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Australia's TOP Toilet! #33 – Charlotte Pass, New South Wales


Charlotte Pass Amenities Block, Mt Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales


As the road wound inexorably upwards through rocky peaks and alpine meadows studded with non-operational chairlifts, the temperature dropped, then dropped some more. Fresh from the 39°C of an Adelaide autumn heatwave, we'd plunged right along with the temperature into the parallel universe of the Mt Kosciuszko National Park in the heart of the High Country.


Overlooking Charlotte Pass, New South Wales

At the 1835 metre (6020 ft) mark, the road stopped. From here, tracks led in several directions. Down the road to ski resort village Charlotte Pass, at a mere 1760 metres (5774 ft) Australia's highest permanent settlement. Along the ridge to the Main Range lookout. Up to the chairlift and lookout point across the Snowy River to the – yes, Aussie imagination runs wild – Snowy Mountains. And a track to Mt Kosciuszko, Australia's highest point.

Mt Kosciuszko (highest point at right with people at summit), Snowy Mountains, New South Wales



Named for Charlotte Adams, the first non-indigenous woman to scale the mountain, Charlotte Pass was a crossover point for the last 9 km (~5 miles) for what used to be the drive – yes, the DRIVE – to the top of Mt Kosciuszko's 2228 metre (7310 feet) peak. Now it's the starting point for one of several walking trails to the summit – from here, an 18 km (~11 mile) round trip.

Go before you go at Australia's highest Public Toilet, Charlotte Pass, New South Wales


Of course before you go, you need to GO, right?

So here on Charlotte Pass at the trailhead to the Mt Kosciuszko summit is a conveniently placed public amenities building – at 1835 metres and just below the tree line, ALMOST Australia's highest Public Toilet!  But unless you catch the Kosciuszko Express chairlift from Thredbo, or climb Mt Kosciuszko from the chairlift summit, it COULD be as high a loo as you'll get in OZ! That's TOP #1!

Flame Robin at Charlotte Pass, New South Wales
Completely snowbound in winter, Charlotte Pass also trumps the rest of the country with Australia's lowest recorded temperature, -23°C (-9.4°F) on 28 June, 1994. I'll pause for a minute for the Northern Hemisphereans to stop laughing … but that's TOP #2!

From the Main Range lookout, the highest of the high Snowy Mountain range forms a magnificent backdrop to this isolated amenities block.

With Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Townsend (Australia's 2nd highest peak), and a whole bunch of other really high mountains (by Australian standards) visible to the right of the Charlotte Pass conveniences from the Main Range Lookout, that makes TOP #3!!

Charlotte Pass Public Conveniences (circled at left) with Mt Kosciuszko (left arrow) & approx location of Mt Townsend
So if my planned assault on Mt Kosciuszko later this week is foiled by lousy weather or terminal muscle meltdown, at least I'll have had the pleasure of doing my business in ALMOST the TOP little toilet in OZ!

Read MORE:
PS 21 March 2013 ... HOW EMBARASSING!!!! Charlotte Pass ISN'T the highest public loo in OZ! It's not even the 2nd highest ... SO I've updated this post accordingly, and will shortly be posting about Australia's REAL highest public loo ...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

6 ALMOST Secret TOP Aussie National Parks!

At LAST I've got the answer to that irritating question – Have you been to all of Australia's National Parks?

I'll just get out my recently released 2nd edition of Explore Australia's excellent Explore Australia's National Parks! And point out that to visit ALL of Australia's 500+ National Parks would be a life-long project.

The question comes up because many stop counting after Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Blue Mountains. But what about the other 500 or so? Over the years, our travels in Australia have taken us to some spectacular National Parks where, in many cases, we've had them all to ourselves.

Using Explore Australia's National Parks will help to narrow the field. And I'm not just saying that because I was lucky to get a complementary copy - check out the inforgraphic at left, then take a little armchair tour of these 6 less well known Australian National Parks and you'll see what I mean!!

Then keep reading to see how YOU could win a copy for yourself!

Whale with Calf, Head of Bight, South Australia
Driving the Nullarbor is the ultimate road trip – part of a 4000 km journey from one side of Australia to the other, its big chunks of nothing broken only by roadhouses, rest stops and 'roos! And stopping for the obligatory photo of yourself in the middle of a long stretch of empty road with nothing all around ...

But the drive through the Nullarbor Regional Reserve is an adventure in itself with several world exclusives, including Nullarbor Links, the world's longest golf course; the Nullarbor itself, world's longest, flattest limetone formation; and the Bunda cliffs – longest unbroken stretch of cliffs without a natural harbour in the world.

Whales in Bight, with Bunda Cliffs behind, South Australia
For those unimpressed by such things, the Great Australian Bight – that big concave bit along the bottom of the continent – is a world reknowned Southern Right Whale nursery and migration path.
 
And on a good day – May to October – literally dozens of whales and calves can be spotted up and down the coast from the Head of Bight viewing platforms.

Such a spectacle, in fact, that I almost didn't notice the scenic public toilet!



For a complete change of pace, Victoria's Mallee country is a surprise to those who thought the Outback was confined to Australia's more central parts.

Wonga Campground, Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria


Only 450 km north-west of Melbourne, visit Wyperfeld's eastern section from nearby Hopetoun or Rainbow, but for a real outback experience camp in one of the park's two campgrounds and explore the park on foot.
 
Dunes at Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria
With walking trails to suit all levels of fitness, the park is part of a complex lake system and is a known habitat for the endangered Mallee fowl.

During our May 2012 day trip, we saw two other cars. But we're hoping that when we return to stay, we'll be on our own!

And when you're done, drop in to nearby Patchewollock for the BIG Mallee fowl!

Read MORE: Patchewollock and Hopetoun


The poor relation of Exmouth's two parks, Cape Range is often overshadowed by the world famous Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef. And while these Western Australian Coral Coast offshore attractions are undeniably spectacular, Cape Range was so intriguing on our August 2012 visit, we saved Ningaloo for next time.

Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia


After escaping our campsite between the twin delights of the amenities block and the backpacker accomodation, Yardie Creek Gorge along the western side of the range running down the middle of Northwest Cape was a welcome surprise.
 
Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park
It's not every day you get to see a classic Outback Gorge with a river running into the ocean!

The eastern side of the range was even more dramatic. A very rough, narrow, winding and steep drive along the aptly named Charles Knife Road revealed more rugged Outback scenery – with staggering views across to the ocean.

And in the height of tourist season, with caravan parks and campgrounds full to bursting, we lucked out with only a couple of other vehicles!

Although one contained quite possibly the only sarong-wearing Frenchman in the world ...


Charles Knife Road Lookout, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia


 
 

Described to us as the 'mini Bungle Bungles' in a nod to one of Western Australia's big ticket items, the Northern Territory's Keep River National Park actually abuts the WA border. And makes a mockery of the 1½ hour time difference! Although we left Kununurra early, by the time we'd visited the Ranger station and nearby Cockatoo Lagoon, then driven to the 7km Jarnem Loop walk trailhead, the morning had all but gone.

Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory


No matter.

White-quilled Rock-pigeon, Keep River National Park
This spectacular walk through bizarre rock formations to the 360ยบ lookout, then down through a lightly wooded valley past more rock formations to an Aboriginal rock shelter complete with paintings was virtually people free!

Add a lifer – White-quilled Rock-pigeon – for twitcher Pilchard and I see a return to this remote Top End park in our future …

I can only imagine the views at sunset and sunrise – but one day we'll stay in one of the campgrounds for a few days and find out!

And when one day we visit the real Bungle Bungles, we'll see how it got it's nickname!


Jolting along the rough road from remote opal mining town White Cliffs towards Paroo-Darling National Park's Peery Lake, we spotted a Winnebago parked in the middle of the road. Stopping to make sure the owners were OK, we asked where they'd come from. The middle aged couple exchanged guilty glances and seemed strangely reluctant to tell us.

Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park, via White Cliffs, New South Wales


'You're not Park rangers, are you?', she finally asked. Then the penny dropped! They'd illegally stayed at the lake overnight.

'It's not really camping,' she continued. 'We're fully self-contained!'

And that was our introduction to both Paroo-Darling National Park and the new definitions of 'camping'.

Paroo-Darling National Park, New South Wales
The park is a string of seven old pastoral leases, several of which form one of the only reserves on the Darling River floodplain.
 
The park's only campground – the Coach and Horses – is in this section, more easily reached from Wilcannia.

In the northern sections, along the Paroo River Overflow before it meets the Darling near Wilcannia. In this part of the park, the massive bulk of Lake Peery, full during our 2010 visit, supports abundant birdlife but when dry its unique mound springs become visible.

Then we returned to White Cliffs for 7½ minutes in Paradise!



Back in 1998 on our first and only visit, Queensland's Lawn Hill was considered a remote destination with the riverbanks at closest town Gregory Downs a makeshift stopover campsite before the rigours of 100 km of bulldust and gravel.

Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland


Nowadays, nearly 15 years later, it's still a long, hard 100 km of unsealed road. With either mud or dust, depending on the time of year.

But it's still one of the most spectacularly memorable National Parks in Australia, an Outback oasis with a soaring red rocky gorge system, clear water and staggering scenery. The canoe trip from the camping area up the gorge, then over the portage point into the higher gorge is an amazing experience. Get close to the wildlife too! Swim with the giant carp, spot freshwater crocodiles lurking in the gorges – and watch out for snakes in the water! My first instinct was to paddle like hell when my oar nearly hit a snake in the water; but Pilchard wanted to paddle back to see what he'd missed.

Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland


I guess that's the essential difference between us!

Back at the campground's cold showers, the high limestone content in the water gave a whole new meaning to 'sculpted hairdo' ...
Expansive view from Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory
 

While travelling to these National Parks may take a little longer, the trip is well worth the extravaganza of stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife and extraordinary experiences you'll encounter.

If YOU would like to explore Australia's National Parks further, Explore Australia has a copy of Explore Australia's National Parks to give away! You're eligible to enter if you have an Australian postal address as the book will be posted to the winner.

Just tell me the Australian National Park you'd most like to visit AND that you're entering the competition in the comments below! Please also ensure that I can contact you by email.

The competition will close at Midnight, 20 March 2013, Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, and the winner will be randomly selected. Good Luck!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Now you see it … OZ Scenic Public Toilet #32

 
Semaphore streetscape, Adelaide, South Australia
What's a nice Scenic Public Toilet doing in a street like this?

Who knew that exploring Adelaide beachside suburb Semaphore would reveal such an intriguing blend of almost tasteful camouflage and cutting edge convenience technology?

Is that a toilet I see before me???
Actually, who knew there WAS such cutting edge convenience technology??

Accidentally wandering into the main street's residential zone after trawling the Semaphore shops for loot, as one does, I'd already turned to go back when Pilchard nudged me.

'Look over there,' he murmured with a coded jerk of the head that the unaware and/or unkind would immediately dismiss as a muscle spasm.

I looked.

I saw nothing. Pilchard smiled evilly.

'What?' I demanded, exasperated. This wasn't the first time he'd pointed out something I would find 'exciting', like a bird on the fence or an unusual plant. But this time, apart from an undeniably attractive streetscape offset against the blue South Australian summer sky, I could see nothing.
 
The well-disguised public amenities on a Semaphore Street, South Australia



'Can't you see the toilet?' Pilchard asked, with more than a touch of smugness.

This time I looked more carefully. The antique lamp posts, some stone fronted cottages, a bus stop. And – another bus stop?

Actually, no.


In case you were wondering ...
The tiny structure's muted tones, a carefully executed mural showing bare-branched autumn trees behind a wrought iron fence against a sepia sky, blended in nicely with the stonework behind.

It was almost a shame to desecrate such a brilliantly cunning disguise with a blatant sign that was a dead giveaway. If approaching the building from the street, that is. As the average user probably wouldn't, given that this loo was no drive-in!
 
And the appropriately yellow pedestrian signs on the footpath warned that this was a potential crossing point for approaching users.

I could only imagine how much more effective such a disguise would be in autumn, when apart from the sepia, the actual trees would match their mural counterparts.

I wondered how many people mistook it for the bus stop.

Which one's the bus stop? Semaphore street, Adelaide, South Australia


No matter.

I grabbed my camera and took off.

'Do you actually need to use the loo?' Pilchard called out behind me.

'No'
It won't be tasteless if I call it 'Semaphore Reflections', right?
'That's sick,' he murmured and headed for the bus stop. Quite rightly too.
 
Not everyone would accept that a lone man hanging around a public facility with binoculars in hand was actually birdwatching …

While his partner was inside taking photos ...

A symphony of sterile stainless steel, automated accessories and instructive communications, enhanced by the piped music softly playing to – I guess – assist one's performance, the glare of the interior made it difficult to effectively capture the ambience in the 10 minutes I had before the door would automatically open.

I couldn't help but wonder how the visually impaired users for whom the braille translations must be intended would actually find all the signs given their random scattering around the inordinately large interior.


More than a basin - this is a WORKSTATION!
How would one know, for example, that the soap/water/dryer basin inset wasn't a urinal? And whatever one thought it was, why would one then think to test for braille instructions along it's top??
 
And who could guess without looking how far below the toilet tissue touch button the tissue actually emerged???

That's if it DID emerge – I would have had more luck if I'd hit the button with a hammer, or a well-executed karate kick.  Neither of which would have been remotely possible if I'd actually been seated on the loo.

I hoped the next user appreciated the toilet tissue I left behind …

Other than graffiti left by the imaginatively spelt 'Ebanie' (now preserved forever right here!), the only sign with NO braille accompaniment was the instruction for exiting the amenities in the case of power failure.
 
Grafitti - and non-Braille instructions!
Of course while the power was ON, everyone would know exactly where to find the large exit button at the LEFT of the right-opening door, wouldn't they?
But of course I could see whether or not the door was locked by the lights next to what surely must be (or why use it) the international 'lock' symbol – an open or closed padlock, although visually impaired users might have some difficulty given the absence of a) braille or b) raised surfaces.

And while I was unperturbed by the absence of a flush-button – these clever conveniences flush themselves, an action triggered by a) using the handbasin/urinal; or b) exiting the amenities – I wondered what an illiterate person or a child would make of it.

The visually impaired person would, of course, find the braille instruction to this effect while feeling around for the flush-button, right??


Door sign, Public Conveniences, Semaphore
While tempted to see what happened when the door opened of its own accord in 10 minutes, I returned to the street. After all, in a country with few public amenities outside parks, gardens, shopping centres, service stations and rest stops, this rare example of suburban street amenities next to a bus stop MUST be in demand! Or why build it there in the first place?


Surely by now there'd be a queue??

But the street was inexplicably empty.

After a few steps, however, the solution was clear.

Of course! The camouflage was working!!

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