Five lands

10 03 2013

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The Port at Portovenere

Cinqueterre – five lands – is part of the Italian Riviera. I had planned to walk the coastline – a somewhat ambitious project at the best of times given my current fitness level, however upon arriving and realising that the walking trail was more suitable for mountain goats, I was very glad for the hop-on-hop-off water taxi that visited four of the five towns. (A month before I visited a couple of Australian tourists had been badly injured in a landslide and the walking trails were closed anyway. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

The towns are arranged around harbours at the base of steep hillsides and cliffs. Apparently it is a great area for seafood, which can surely be the only reason why their intrepid ancestors decided to settle in such an inhospitable environment. While the sun shines, it is gorgeous. The footpaths in the towns are very steep, full of staircases and with little motorised transport. Some of the houses set on the cliffs certainly look too steep to possibly have motorised transport to their door. And you wouldn’t want to sleepwalk – you might fall off a cliff! The steep terrain also causes periodic flooding (see here andhere) which send walls of mud down the hillside and through the towns. There is however a train line cut into the side of the hill, and roads can be seen at the top of the hills. And the walking path, when it is open.

Here are some of the best of the Cinqueterre photos.

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Portovenere

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Still a working port for local fisheries

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View from our balcony, Monterosso

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church at portovener
The stripy church that overlooks the entrance to the harbour at Portovenere reflects the stripy cliff-faces in the area.

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Gumeracha Medieval Fair

6 05 2012

I finally made it to the Gumeracha Medieval Fair, after having seen advertisements for many years. Set in scenic Federation Park in Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills, the themed marquees, the central town square for entertainments and the large number of costumed participants and attendees made this an interesting variation on the town fair. Seeing a monk or a damsel in medieval costume texting on their i-phone made for an interesting look!

Federation Park features some amazingly large gum trees set around a creek. The fair covered both sides of the creek with a wooden foot-bridge to cross from one side to another. The food stalls were themed (sausage rolls became rat in a roll), a central “tavern” tent served spiced Mead and old-fashioned soft drinks, and in addition to the many stalls offering things for sale, there were also displays of wood-carving, knife-sharpening, blacksmithing and spinning. Displays of medieval warcraft including archery, catapults, and knights battling it out in sword-fights to win the hand of a “not-so-fair” maiden (turned out to be a man in drag) were complimented by displays where the exhibitors talked about how various weapons and household implements were made and used. Helmets and chain mail were available to try on – and to buy.

So all in all quite a fun day (it actually ran all weekend), although late afternoon light rain seemed to call the end of the fair slightly before the advertised time.

Want some more photographs of Australia?
St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf
Prehistoric Australia
Prehistoric Australia





Travel places to avoid

30 04 2012

Some people collect countries like scalps. And not every country has the same value. The more touristy, the less value. The more perceived danger, the more value. Even if you missed the “danger” period by a decade or more. And so I claim Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa – more exotic and exciting than England, New Zealand, Singapore (but no less enjoyable). We did manage to time our visit to Egypt six months after the hand grenade attack on the tourist bus outside the Cairo Museum, and six months before the machine-gun attack on the tomb of Hat-sep-Chut (which I know I have misspelled). The most exciting thing that occurred while we were in Egypt was the 18-year-old armed youth on National Service as tourist police who tried to pick me up in the Cairo Museum (“Come with me and I’ll show you the Tomb of Ramses II” – an original line, if nothing else.) The fact that I was walking with my boyfriend seemed to be irrelevant. (NB: Tourist Police are supposed to guard the tourists – most of them seemed to be 18, carrying loaded weapons and on National Service. Their impressions of western women – and I generalise here – seemed to be somewhat jaundiced. While as Australians, we were somewhat nervous being watched and guarded by armed guards, the South Africans we were travelling with were relieved and said they would be much less comfortable of the guards had not been there.)

The following picture was sent to me at work. I can’t quite work out the “logic” or criteria for allocating each cause of death to each country, but I note that China does not feature as having a notable cause of death. Perhaps the source of their longevity? Not sure the same can be said for much of Central Africa, which also appears not to have any specific notable deaths. And in sheer numbers, shark attacks really do not feature that highly in Australia, despite what we might tell tourists. (Diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and cancer feature more highly, as in many western countries, including England, another notable left off the list.)

And seriously – death by lawnmower in the US? Is that not an episode of Six Feet Under?

Like some more Australian KULCHA (culture) abroad? Try Australians abroad.





Prehistoric Australia

21 04 2012

at the entrance to the Naracoorte Caves National Park - perhaps fossils from the iron age????

Naracoorte is a small town in the south-east of the state of South Australia. It is about four hours drive from Adelaide, so more of an overnight stay than a day-trip, if being attempted with children.

Naracoorte was one of my favourite holiday places as a child – and more specifically, the Naracoorte Caves. These massive caves are naturally formed from the actions of water on limestone, and as well as featuring spectacular stalagmites (from the ground up), stalactites (from the ceiling down) helicotites (sideways!), columns and curtains (as they sound), they also feature fossils from prehistoric animals.

While there are no massive dinosaurs here, there are a large number of smaller fossils ranging from lizards and small rodents up to megafauna – giant prehistoric kangaroos and wombats, and my favourite, thylacaleo carnifex – the marsupial lion. The caves are still under excavation by archeologists so who knows what other animals will be found in the tonnes and tonnes of material yet to be sifted through.

The underground caves have guided tours while a few caves which have larger openings to the surface are self-guide. One of the caves is now home to a large colony of bats.

The rate of petrification in these caves is much (much) slower than the caves we visited in France, where the rate of water flow and the calcium load in the water was such that they could use it to petrify objects for the tourist trade. Here the stalactites, stalagmites etc grow at a miniscule rate.

another "iron age" fossil!

a banksia outside the caves

fairytale castles.....stalactites reflected in a perfectly still pond underground

these stagmites look like a nativity scene

stalactites formed along a crack in the ceiling

stalactites formed along a crack in the cave ceiling

a "curtain" stalactite feature

sink hole to the surface (looking upwards). These sorts of holes were how the animals fell into the caves and then were unable to get out again. Underneath these holes would be large piles of silt and rubble, unless a flood event had washed the rubble further into the cave.

Thylacaleo carnifex (marsupial lion)

Thylacaleo Carnifex (marsupial lion)

archeological dig

"Stanley" - megafauna kangaroo

thylacaleo carnifex - "Leo"

the archeological dig

Wet Cave

thylacaleo carnifex battling a giant snake

megafauna

megafauna kangaroo (model)

columns in White Cave - look like architectural columns

Flinders University archeology digs in White Cave - each stripe in the soil indicates a different period of time

leaving White Cave

Want more pictures of Australian sites? Try….
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
In the red hot centre
Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium





Bicentiennial Conservatory

9 04 2012

At the north-eastern end of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens is the Bicentennial Conservatory – a nautilus-shell-shaped glass and steel structure which is visible from certain western facing points of the Adelaide hills. Designed by South Australian architect Guy Maron, it was opened to celebrate the Australian bicentenary in 1988. It is the largest single span glasshouse in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world.

I remember visiting it shortly after it opened, when most of the plants were not much more than seedlings. Twenty-four years later and I have to ask….what are they going to do with the trees that are now touching the roof?

No pictures of the outside of the shell – but some of the detail of the rainforest within.


The (rather civilised) way into the jungle…


More pictures from Australia? Try
Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium
In the red hot centre
South Australian Museum





Adelaide Botanic Gardens

9 04 2012


In the parklands across the road from the northern entrance.

The Adelaide Botanic Gardens sit on the eastern end of North Terrace adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and forming part of the Parklands which ring the city. A wide variety of mature trees, native and exotic as well as formal and informal plantings form a number of different “chambers” within the park, so that you can picnic or play within the park without being aware of everybody. A number of truly novel plants, including the Amazonian Waterlily – Amazonian in proportions – make this an interesting day out, particularly if you are accompanied by children who need to be exercised!

There are also a number of public arts dotted throughout the gardens – some in the classic style, others more modern. A formal rose garden is popular for weddings, as is the Botanic Gardens restaurant, set in the centre of the gardens near the lake. The Santos Museum of Economic Botany also boasts a cafe and decking which can be used for functions – but I have never been there when the museum was open so I have no idea what it is like inside! Presumably economic botany is about using plants for profit – medicines, agriculture and the like?

On the north-eastern corner of the gardens is a giant glass dome – the Bicentennial Conservatory, featuring an indoor rain-forest.

Enjoy

Money-tree

Amazonian Waterlily

emblem of the Amazonian Waterlily, etched onto the conservatory glass


More pictures from Australia? Try
Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium
In the red hot centre
South Australian Museum





South Australian Museum

9 04 2012

A trip to the South Australian Museum, on North Terrace in Adelaide. A few photographs of the Pacific Islander collection and the building, the war memorial and an abandoned building on North Terrace that has fallen “victim” to some street art.

breast decorations made from shell

Fiji Times declares peace in the Pacific (WWII)

Pacific Islander mask

the War Memorial, North Terrace, Adelaide

an attractive but abandoned building on North Terrace, Adelaide

faces at the window (detail)

ornate plaque