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


In the Mood ... the BEST of the Barossa at Café Y!

Swing & Tonic - the Elliott Sisters perform at Café Y, Barossa Valley, South Australia

South Australia's world famous Barossa Valley is 400 odd km² of wine-buff, foodie, photographer and bakery aficionado heaven.

Chateau Yaldara via Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia
With more than 70 cellar doors, over 40 restaurants and cafés, and a huge variety of accommodation in a relentlessly picturesque and historic setting, you can't swing a brush-tailed possum without hitting something gorgeous to see, do or eat.

In fact, there's so MUCH to see, do and eat that some visitors find it difficult to choose!

But not me.

I know EXACTLY where to go.

So if you're looking for a Barossa experience that ticks all the boxes, follow me to the FAAAAABULOUS Café Y.

Sure, there are lots of other places in the world famous Barossa Valley, once known as New Silesia and only a short drive from Adelaide, that offer great meals and fine wines with friendly and professional service overlooking a superb Barossa landscape in an historic setting with nearby accommodation and wine tasting.

Café Y via Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia
But first there's Café Y's setting.

It's perfectly placed to showcase a little bit of everything good about the Barossa. Just north of Lyndoch and its superb bakery – a happy reminder of the region's German roots – it's within a stone's throw of a clutch of cellar doors well worth visiting. Including McGuigans with tasting room and art gallery right next door in historic Chateau Yaldara , if being built in 1947 qualifies as historic!

Café Y from Chateau Yaldara, Barossa Valley

If it's too hard to nominate a designated driver for a day sampling the Barossa's finest, consider a stay nearby at the superbly positioned Barossa Pavilions high above the Café.

Café Y Pizza Oven
I haven't yet experienced the delights of this luxury boutique accommodation – I'm saving that for an extra special occasion …  although there's a BIG hint for anyone wondering what I might like for Christmas!

But I digress …

Then there's the service.

Nestled between the cellars of the old Chateau Yaldara winery and the North Para River, one of the most appealing aspects of Café Y is the unique personal touch of owner-managers Nick, Mary and Ilias, who with staff regulars Tom and Sara provide a professional, customer-focussed service that makes you feel like one of the family.

Then there's the view from the windows.

Godfrey and friend outside Café Y, Barossa Valley

Down below the cafe, under the guise of frolicking on the lawn, resident gander Godfrey and his harem wait for the bread that magically rains down from the windows above. And make short work the other birds who try to join the party. After their feed, they swim out to Godfrey's Island in the reeds below the river crossing where Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen nest in spring. Also amongst the reeds, more observant diners can see Australian Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird in spring and summer.

North Para River in flood, Café Y via Lyndoch, Barossa Valley

And when the river's in flood, there's sometimes the chance to see adventurous (or foolhardy) drivers attempting to negotiate the ford!

Margarita Pizza
Greek Lamb Pizza
Then there's the food.

Lazing away an afternoon with a platter, a selection from the a la carte menu or a pizza fresh from the oven outside the cafe, followed by dessert and coffee is one of life's great pleasures.

And a South Australian experience not to miss!!

But then there's the nightlife!!

Visiting Café Y at night for the first time EVER enhanced my perception of what was already a favourite spot forever!

Gourmet Weekend at the Port Room, Café Y
Transformed for the annual August Barossa Gourmet Weekend, the converted Port Room in the old cellars oozed atmosphere as the superb Elliott Sisters accompanied by band 'Swing and Tonic' complemented Café Y's sensational 4 course menu perfectly.

Or was that the other way around?

Whatever.  It also provided the ideal setting in which to indulge my personal weakness … and swoon over the two saxophone players!

I'll leave you to judge for yourself why these 'arty' shots turned out this way!

Sax Appeal #1
Sax Appeal #2


With the historic mural above the archway and barrel filled tunnels leading off into the underground gloom, Café Y excelled itself with this brilliant amalgam of ambience, fine dining, and musical excellence.

North Para River from Café Y, via Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia
A fine reason to consider a return to the Barossa next August, when the Gourmet Weekend rolls around again! 

Or to check out the other Café Y special events!!

Yes, there are lots of places to go, sights to see and things to do in the Barossa Valley.

But the Café Y showcase of the delights the Barossa has to offer is the perfect way to start – and finish – your own experience of this awesome South Australian region.

So you know where I'LL be ...

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The DARK Side of OZ travel – my TOP 7 Hazards!

Stormy Weather ... Sultana Point, South Australia

Wild, rugged mountains. Ancient, arid deserts. Weird, wonderful wildlife. Magnificent beaches, lush rainforests, untamed islands. These – and other amazing wonders – are just part of everyday life in the mystical, magical land of OZ!

What could possibly go wrong??

Most of the time, nothing. But road-tripping round Australia isn't always beaches and bakeries, sunlight and surf, RED rock and rainbows … the dark side of travel in Australia is everywhere.
And the scare factor increases considerably through the eyes of a 'world's greatest coward' contender!

Yes, that's me.
Outback Road via Copley, South Australia

However, just because I'm easily frightened doesn't make me wrong, right? So for a cowards-eye view, I've put together MY version of the TOP 7 Aussie travel hazards!

But be warned! All you REAL adventurers out there just MIGHT find the dark side stuff that scares me rigid rather lame ...
#1 Heights

The shelter shed at the top of the Kalbarri Cliffs gives some idea of the drop DOWN!  Western Australia

The almost unbearable urge to give in to gravity on the edge of a precipitous cliff, narrow ridge or soaring pinnacle makes me weak at the knees.
Pilchard at the Eyrie- a 293 metre drop to the bottom of Tully Gorge, QLD
And watching people (like Pilchard!) stand on the edge of sheer drops without quavering gives me the cold shivers.
Perhaps the contrast with the ultra-flat parts of Australia makes its heights more obvious. Or maybe the absence of safety railings in remote spots underlines the danger.

OR … it could be that I really AM a coward!

But avoidance isn't an option if I want to see the sights or take the pix.
So after years of blanking out steep drops, my pointless clutching at railings or even rocks has abated (although the magnetic downdraft I feel when I'm on the edge hasn't)!
#2 Snakes
What's that on the Mt William Road in the Grampians National Park, Victoria?

In a country where threats like deadly box jellyfish and blue-ringed octopi, voracious sharks and crocodiles, giant ants and redback spiders, stonefish and stinging leaves stalk the land, singling out snakes as objects of fear doesn't really make sense.

Although with 9 of the world's 10 deadliest snakes alive and well down here perhaps it does …

But given my extreme 'flight' reaction works just as well on non-venomous species perhaps there's something other than the threat of imminent death in play.

It's a SNAKE, of course!  Who cares what kind??  They're ALL bad ...

I try to put it in perspective. Death from snakebite isn't all that common. But the risk of death rises exponentially when the snake is being handled. So do as I do – and run like hell!
#3 Bogans

According to the Australian Slang Dictionary on Koala Net, a Bogan is 'a person who takes little pride in his appearance, spends his days slacking and drinking beer'.

Not so scary, you say?

Well … wait 'til these benign behaviours intersect with 'disturbed camping' and 'extreme intoxication' and 'reverberating music' and 'sleep deprivation'.

The campground BEFORE the Bogan moved in ... Timber Creek, Northern Territory

Then you end up with a twenty-something low rent loser whacked out of his brain in the middle of a remote but crowded campground playing Aussie group Redgum's I Was Only 19 at full bore on his quadrophonic car stereo while simultaneously playing Elvis AreYou Lonesome Tonight? on his way-too-expensive-for-a-bogan supersonic caravan stereo system. Singing along with first one, then the other as if they went together.
At 3:00 am.
He was still passed out when we left the next morning which is why his tyres remained intact and the crocodiles in the creek below remained unfed!

Crocs in the Creek, Timber Creek, Northern Territory

But I still wonder how such a young bloke ended up with a brand-new $50,000+ caravan of a make and model that NO ONE ELSE under 60 owns. Or wants. Maybe it'd be worth checking the missing-grey-nomad register back where he came from …

#4 Extreme Sports

What ARE those black specks in the stormy sky above Ballina, New South Wales???

Paragliders, of course!
While watching para-gliders drifting lazily downwards against a backdrop of storm clouds makes for marvellously melodramatic shots, for me it's an awful amalgam of #1 and #6.

And if I'm going to break my neck, I'd rather do it the all-natural old-fashioned way than diving into a pool with an elastic rope around my ankles (see #1 above!).

Anyway, road-tripping Australia's vast distances in challenging conditions is virtually an extreme sport in itself!

Besides, I already participate in the most extreme sport on the planet.

Running through the inhospitable Aussie bushland laden with heavy equipment; crawling through swamps (sorry, 'wetlands') in eye-ball shrivelling heat or pouring rain; comparing field observations with an encyclopaedic wealth of conflicting data; negotiating 'roads' in remote wilderness; and the psychological ability to deal with the sometimes appalling social skills of its more experienced practitioners are just a few of the challenges the extreme sport of – yes – BIRDWATCHING presents.

It's nothing to do with cowardice – I just don't have the time – or energy – left for anything else!

D'you reckon there'd be snakes at the Tyto Wetlands, Ingham, Queensland?

And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you ...
#5 Being 'Caught Short'

Thousands of kilometres of road-tripping takes its toll in more ways than one. And despite the plethora of both male and female 'relief' products on the market, nothing beats finding a divine dunny when you need one.

Classic Aussie Dunny, Quobba Blowholes, Western Australia

Maybe that's why I've got such an affinity for Australia's Scenic Public Toilets!

While the scare factor is pretty low compared to, say, snakebite or death by duelling musicians, continually crossing one's legs is just plain AWKWARD!

View of the Loo (that black speck!) from the Lighthouse against the Quobba Blowholes, Western Australia
One day I'll introduce a unique Tour of Australia via its most AMAZING Amenities – but in the meantime? I'll just keep publishing my handy guide to the most scenic loos in OZ!
Is it so wrong to combine doing business with pleasure??

#6 Roads

The Silver Bullet on the Strzelecki Track, via Lyndhurst, South Australia

Putting the 'road' into 'road-trip' isn't always as easy as it sounds.

Strzelecki Track Surface!
While vast distances, extreme weather, rugged conditions and wild animals take their toll, the real problem is economics.

At least that's the reason some regions give for tyre-shredding road surfaces, mud slicks, swimming pool-sized potholes and once-temporary traffic hazard signs that seem to have become permanent.

And without rail network closure and mining activity increases in many rural and remote areas, there'd be considerably fewer hazards from the network of semi-trailers.
Although grey nomads who use experimental driving techniques with their semi-trailer-sized caravans and truck-sized tow vehicles are even more of a hazard!

Either way, leaving home without Automobile Association membership means a road emergency miles from anywhere can bring your road-trip to a grinding – and expensive – halt!

Road Train on Kimberley Road, Western Australia

#7 Sensory Overload

Ho hum … another day on the road, another panorama of staggering scenery … an Aussie road-trip can really leave you jaded!

I've seen a LOT of Australia's abundant – and varied – natural attractions. And photographed them for my blog. But I'm SO not done yet! Not when I keep finding places like THESE!

Mt Warning, Northern New South Wales

OK, so I'm biased. But not without good reason!!

Sunset over the Richmond River, Ballina, New South Wales

Well, that's MY list. And yes, I'm sure it leaves my inarguable coward-contender status undamaged!!
But what have I missed?  What's the DARK side of Aussie travel for YOU??


Lake Cullulleraine and the Singing Camera! via Mildura, Victoria

Lake Cullulleraine Sunset, Victoria, Australia
OK, so I'd been reading a photography magazine as we approached Lake Cullulleraine at the end of a long day on the road, and I was itching to try a few things out. So what if my camera was 'only' a point & click, and not one of the fancy-schmancy-hi-tech must-have gadget-laden-gizmos the mag condescended about.

Late Afternoon at Lake Cullulleraine, via Mildura, Victoria
Besides, I was in a BAAAAAAD mood.

Sunset Start-Up, Lake Cullulleraine
We SO hadn't planned for a four-day dash 2000 km (that's a LOTTA miles) across the country for home only a few short weeks after we'd left.
We also hadn't planned on the camper trailer's broken spring.
Or the brake malfunction.
Or the hiking boot loss-of-sole emergency.

Or the killer storm that sprung us a leak AND turned our campsite into a make-shift mud-wrestling arena.

Nor had we planned on an escalating family misfortune, sucking us into its cruel maw and grinding us down with despondency.
Or the unforeseen injury that saw one of us barely able to move or drive and held us captive in a place where it seemed to never stop raining (split infinitive be damned!) ...

No, this road-trip was doomed.  Nothing for it, but to cut our holiday short!

So now we were three LOOOOOOONG and dismal days on the road UP with – please goddess – one more day and a few hundred more kilometres DOWN 'til home.

Sunset Panorama, Lake Cullulleraine

Dropping like a post-poor-policy-announcement pre-election poll, the temperature plunged into single figures as we headed south into the cold and dreary gloom of the winter we'd almost escaped. The one cold-climate outfit I'd brought was getting an unexpected airing. Every day.

Colours of Lake Cullulleraine, Victoria, Australia
If only our washing machine hadn't self-destructed just before we left …

And we'd passed the last bakery before the border.
The Sky Lights Up at Lake Cullulleraine
Life sure wasn't proving to be all RED Rocks and Rainbows on this dismal downunder day.
So in the late afternoon, after 3 days and ~1600 kilometres on the road, we pulled into Lake Cullulleraine exactly 5 weeks to the day since our first visit*.

'Let's try the other caravan park this time,' Pilchard suggested in the interests of equality.
Too tired to argue, we turned off the highway towards the lake's edge where a couple of other vans – a good sign – were already set up, with no barking dogs, blaring radios or blithering idiots apparent.
No obvious axe murderers or aliens either*. Actually, NO ONE AT ALL!!!

Had the secret rapture come early to this small lakeside settlement??

The sign at the entrance advised us to select a site, set up and the managers would track us down later. And so did the park resident who emerged from the cottage near the office to show us the ropes.

Magpie by Night, Lake Cullulleraine
Finding a level, drive-through site with a bit of space between us and the nearest campers wasn't too difficult.
So we pulled into a spot with plenty of space between us and our nearest neighbours, set up the camper trailer and headed for the lake to watch the sunset, pausing only to purchase a packet of chocolate biscuits – necessary in the circumstances – from the roadhouse and general store.

The lingering cloud under which we'd driven for several hundred kilometres throughout the day was breaking up as the sun sank through it towards the lake. Strategically placed trees, reeds – and even birds – silhouetted themselves photogenically against its glow.

Moon at Sunrise, Lake Cullulleraine
I started playing with my camera settings.

Maybe that magazine was worth the bucks I'd paid for it after all!

As the sun sank slowly over the lake, the glow in the sky intensified and the reflections turned into an awesome colour palette beyond my wildest dreams through the viewfinder, my shutter button finger was in serious danger of developing a bad case of Repetitive Strain Injury.

And if the friendly local who wandered over for a chat as the sun sank lower hadn't been an artist and photographer with expertise in Photoshop as proven by what he showed me on his i-phone, I probably would have shown him my snaps.

Maybe one day he'll discover them here instead …

The (thankfully much later) southern dawn brought a whole new set of photographic fantasies despite the low-single-digit overnight temperatures, firmly placing Lake Cullulleraine into the 'favourite place' category.

Still Life with Australasian Darter, Lake Cullulleraine
Our short stay at the Lake Cullulleraine Holiday Park was worth every cent of the $25 I put into the honesty box with my business card just before we left – only moments before the manager appeared!

Sunrise at Lake Cullulleraine
And so we set off for the South Australian border – and home.
With a clutch of (in my opinion) killer photos that had miraculously lifted my despondency and despair.

I'd found an antidote to the dark side of our Australian travel adventure.

My camera sings to me.

When I could actually understand the photographic code and lingo peppered throughout its articles, I learned a lot from the photography magazine.
But the artful and inexplicably ever-so-slightly-tilted lake horizon was mine. 
ALL mine!

Want a Lake Cullulleraine adventure all of your own??  Of course you do!  But live too far away??  No problem - with Travel Associates the world can be yours!

And you can show me how to keep that horizon straight ...

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For even more fabulous skies from around the world, visit SkyWatch! You won't regret it ...

Lake Cullulleraine Holiday Park, Victoria, Australia
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Walk Dales Gorge! Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Sunset at Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
I gripped the railing and looked through the deep shadows down the deep RED gash of Dales Gorge. WAAAAAY down. Late afternoon at the lookout meant the sun was long gone from the gorge floor although it lit up the eastern wall quite spectacularly.

Circular Pool from Above, Karijini National Park
Ho Hum.

Another day in the Pilbara, another killer landscape ...

A movement among the rocks far below caught my eye.
Negotiating massive rock slabs higher than they were, and crossing vast tables of square-but rock, two hikers the size of ants headed towards the imaginatively named Circular Pool.

(Yes, that white speck at the waters edge in this photo really IS a person!)
'That's where we'll go tomorrow,' Pilchard announced.

Say WHAT?? How in heck were we going to get down there when the map showed 'cliff risk area' symbols all along the gorge edge? Symbols whose warnings I was only too happy to heed??

That 'killer' landscape was taking on a whole new AND unwelcome meaning ...

Rock Layers en route to Circular Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park

But as we picked our way along the goat track rocky path winding down the sheer cliff under the Three Ways Lookout and past one of those 'Cliff Risk Area' signs the next morning, I realised I didn't have anything to worry about.
 A strategically placed ladder made negotiating the really steep bits almost easy.
And if I DID slip and fall??
Well … it'd be hard to find a more picturesque location in which to receive a serious injury. Or two. Or even die.

No, Karijini National Park was no place for a coward.

Set amidst the impossibly RED Hamersley Range and out in the deep heart of mining country, Karijini's warning signs are for real.

Rangers and volunteers risk – and sometimes lose – their lives rescuing tourists who don't heed the dangers.

Circular Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park
So I was watching my footing as we took the Circular Pool detour over those same gigantic rock shelves we'd viewed from the lookout the evening before.
They weren't as bad as they'd looked from above.
 But I hoped the people at the lookout above didn't throw anything down …

After leaving the rock slabs, the river waters ran deep through groves of trees with those red Red RED rocky walls towering high above, tinged every now and then with a dash of blue.

Blue?? In this location and in these rocks it took on a sinister meaning …

Rock Layers, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park
Only about 50 km away as the crow flies is Wittenoom, where crocidolite – otherwise known as the potentially deadly Blue Asbestos – was mined extensively in what surely must be Australia's greatest industrial disaster, and immortalised by Aussie Band Midnight Oil in their song Blue Sky Mine.
Sadly, although the mine was closed in 1966 (for economic rather than safety reasons), it is estimated that in addition to the 2000+ deaths from asbestos related diseases, the death toll will not peak until the 2020s.

Were these crocidolite layers in the rock?? Perhaps not, but I was leaving them well alone …

Like I said. No place for a coward.

After the de-gazettal of Wittenoom, nearby Tom Price*** inherited the 'Karijini Gateway' tag and is the closest provider of goods and services.

Dales Gorge Cascades, Karijini National Park, Western Australia

But now, although only a small stretch of the 40+ km length of Dales Gorge is accessible, it's a diverse and spectacular couple of kilometres.
The 'View' from Fortescue Falls, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park
The rocks and ledges that had given way to the river and trees now gave way to a series of cascades as we headed towards Fortescue Falls.

Negotiating the treacherous and slippery stepping stones across the river, then up the natural rock layer steps and stairs to the top of the falls, we settled back for lunch – and a show!

In the absence of bars and nightclubs, why not use the falls and pool below as an alternative outback meat market?
This walk definitely WASN'T for the faint-hearted as scantily clad travellers cavorted, strutted and posed with all their wares out on display!

The young man who climbed the amphitheatre's rocky walls to take photos wasn't necessarily showing off.
Not to me, anyway, although he seemed not to be plagued by the vertigo I would have suffered in his place.
Spot the Tourist!
But proving he was no one trick pony, I inadvertently captured him in a similar pose the next day at Joffre Falls* (check out the link at the bottom of the post if you want to see him in action AGAIN!) …
but I digress!

Fern Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park

A little further up the river, we detoured to popular swimming spot the Fern Pool. En route to the clear, blue water and white bodies fresh from the cooler Northern Hemisphere climes, fig trees sprawl over the mossy rocks and ferns grow in the grottos. Fig leaves are optional ...

Fig Trees near Fern Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park
Then it's a steep climb up the track out of the gorge to the Falls carpark.
While it's possible my red face, gasping for air and frequent 'photo' stops showed some of the descending tour group what they had to look forward to after seeing the falls up close, I was unrepentant! If could do the hard yards, so could they although there are spectacular views of the falls from the vantage point above the trailhead if anyone wanted to chicken out!

Fortescue Falls from Above, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park

To complete the loop, we followed the return path along the Gorge Rim track back to Three Ways Lookout and a tremendous view over the falls and river SO far below where we were actually walking not long before.
Dales Gorge from above on the Gorge Rim Walk, Karijini National Park

The Karijini Visitors Centre, set amongst yet another awesome landscape – incomprehensibly under threat from a cash-strapped government looking for mining royalties during our August 2012 visit – does a roaring trade in $2 HOT Showers. After a few hours on the trail the shower is a perfect interlude before returning to the Dales Campground for – yes, you guessed it – ANOTHER scenic landscape with a late afternoon glow that turned the WAY beyond RED rocks into a shade I don't think I've ever seen before.
View from Three Ways Lookout, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park

And as the plague of fears (the usual suspects – heights, injury, death) I'd had at the start of this excellent walk faded in the afterglow of achievement, we settled back into our comfy chairs for a meal from the best little café in Australia**.

Dales Campground, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Maybe there WAS a place for this coward at Karijini after all.

We were done with Dales Gorge.

For now.

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Gorge Rim Walk, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
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