Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Since Sheldon and Helen had some last minute Christmas shopping to do, we hijacked the kids and set off for Sydney.

WildlifeWorld and the Aquarium are next door to each other in Darling Harbour and showcase the animals found in and around Australia.

WildlifWorld’s newest attraction, Igor a 4.8 metre long crocodile (one of the longest in captivity) had only arrived the day before and had been the focus of much media attention in the days running up to it’s arrivial.


Sydney Aquarium

SantaDashing through the bush,
in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust,
esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side,
singing Christmas songs,
It’s Summer time and I am in
my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia
on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine’s getting hot;
we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard,
he is welcome too.
All the family’s there,
sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way,
by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia
on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon,
Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce,
are swimming in their clothes.
The time comes ’round to go,
we take the family snap,
Pack the car and all shoot through,
before the washing up.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia
on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Featherdale Wildlife Park, lined with abundant native plants and trees, is home to over 2000 animals which showcase Australia’s unique fauna.

As usual, I was at a bit of a loss when it came to Barbara’s Christmas present, however, she’d commented in the past that she’d always wanted to ride a motorbike.

Since we’d be in Australia this year and I vaguely remembered flyers for Harley Tours last time we were here I did a bit of research and came up with

At the appointed time there was a growl as the two Harley Davidson’s rolled up outside our front door. A brief chat, a couple of photos and time to get kitted up in leathers and helmets and we climbed onto the pillion and were on our way.

The start of the ride was a bit of a baptism of fire as we made our way up Old Bathurst Road, a steep and twisty road through the bush. Neither of us had much experience of biking, so it took a short while for us to get our confidence.

By the time we hit the Great Western Highway, that had all changed and I felt confident enough to get the camera out and start taking shots as we went along.

Eventually we crossed the railway tracks and started our descent into he Megalong Valley (Not as it turns out the usual Aussie attempt at stating the obvious but derrived from the Aboriginal for “Valley Under the Rock”) going from forrest to rain-forrest and back again on the way down – I’m not sure I can tell what the difference was, but I’m assured that this was the case.

A short stop at the tea-room at the bottom of the valley, and then it was back on the bikes again and heading off to Govett’s Leap waterfall overlooking the Grose Valley (two and a half times longer than the Grand Canyon but not quite as deep)

Finally our last stop was at Lennox’s Horseshoe Bridge on Mitchell’s Pass, part of the original Great Western Highway and the oldest stone arch bridge on the Australian mainland.

Even with the extra padding that I’ve got, riding pillion isn’t the most comfortable way to travel (I’ve got a few aches and pains), but to see the sights and for pure exhileration biking has got to be the best way to get out into the wilderness.

Road Wars

on December 20, 2009 in Australia No Comments »

My first long distance drive in Australia today, coming back from Nelson Bay ready for the Harley Tour tomorrow.

In general the roads seem quieter over here, even in the cities (so long as you avoid the rush hour gridlock) But it’s when the roads get busy that it becomes hectic.

To start with, there is no lane discipline over here because if the car is in the middle lane you can use either of the other lanes to pass, add that to the fact that an Aussie will swerve a truck into a gap that I’d be dubious about putting my Matiz into and you end up with the sort of drive that you only thought possible in video games.

There are no standard speed limits over here, so you have to constantly check the repeater signs (where they exist), urban driving varies from 50-60 km/h, other roads vary from 60-110 km/h, the only set speed is at beginning or end of the school day when every road within a certain circumference drops to 40km/h.

There are motorways, freeways and highways over here, I’m not sure what the difference is, but you seem to be able to find bus stops on any of them and even more bizarrely the hard shoulder doubles up as a cycle lane for anyone crazy enough to brave them. Considering the size of the trucks thundering past and the amount of debris that accumulates (shredded tyres, broken glass etc.) it can’t be a pleasant experience.

James Squire Original Amber AleSuprisingly in a colony of  lager drinkers, the Malt Shovel Brewery have come up with a range of decent ales under the James Squire brand.

The first I tried, the Golden Ale, immediately reminded me of Wychwood’s Circle Master (although obviously it’s hard to make a direct comparison not having the English ales here with me). The Amber Ale comes in somewhere between Goliath and Fiddler’s Elbow and the Porter can see Hobgoblin somewhere in the distance.

Convicted of Highway Robbery and sentenced to transportation in 1785, James Squire was later caught stealing ingredients for brewing beer, the brew was that good that he was given a lenient sentence of a five pound fine and three hundred lashes.

By 1806, having completed his sentence and settled in Australia, he had established an estate of 1000 acres, and succesfully farmed the first Australia hops (and was given a cow by way of reward).

It was at this time that he built the Maltings Shovel Tavern half-way between Sydney Town and Paramatta serving the busy trading route along the Paramatta River.

Historian, Philip Greaves, wrote at the time: “Sailors of many nations who were vague about the locations of Nineveh or Babylon could find their way to Squire’s in a thick fog.”

From his criminal beginnings James Squire ended his life as a District Constable, banker and philanthropist.

After two days of 40 degree heat, and warnings about local bush-fires, we had a downpour last night, and the rain has carried on into today.

It was still warm however, so since the rain couldn’t make us any wetter it was out into the pool to cool off.

Several people have told me that it’s snowing back home, but can’t say I’m missing it 😀

Once you get your bearings, it’s easy to navigate Melbourne using the extensive tram sevice. A direct tram into the city ran just behind our hotel, and then a free service runs round the Central Business District (the heart of Melbourne)

Having ridden round most of the circuit we stopped off at Russell Street to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, the final stop for 135 criminals.

Thanks to the Victorian art of phrenology, the museum is brought to life by the actual faces of those hanged within the walls of this prison, preserved when casts were taken of their heads for further study after death.

The prison was modelled on Pentonville Prison and the view down the remaining cell block will look familiar to anyone who has seen Porridge or any other traditional British prison in a drama.

Many of the cells contain the death mask and information about a particular prisoner. Among these is Frederick Bailey Deeming, when the body of his second wife was found under the hearthstone of his Melbourne residence further investigation in England unearthed the remains of his first wife and four children in a previous dwelling in Liverpool. The crimes were considered so evil at the time that he became suspected of being Jack the Ripper.

“From the outset a suspicion of insanity is almost suggested and a tinge of the Whitechapel murders is hinted. The body hacked and mangled, the cool manner in which the cementing was carried out, the taking a house etc, the laborious obliteration of all traces of the crime – all these things suggest the malevolence and craft which can scarcely accompany the sane murderer, no matter how callous and brutal.”

Most notorious of course is Ned Kelly, outlaw and Australian folk-hero. Famous for his armoured shootout at the Glenrowan Inn, Kelly was arrested after suffering injuries to his unarmoured legs and reunited with his mother (already an inmate at the Melbourne Gaol).

Ned was declared outlaw after the shooting of three policemen who were searching for him after a dubious report of the wounding of another officer, he followed this up with two bank robberies which probably boosted his folk-hero status as along with the money taken he also burned all the mortgage deeds.

Edward Kelly was hanged on 11th November 1880 for the murder of Constable Lonagan (one of the three policemen), his final words were reported to be “Such is life”

Arrived in Melbourne after a short flight from Sydney, managed to find our way out of the airport and for convenience got a taxi to the Bayview on the Park hotel.

When we booked, it had said twin/double room, which I had taken to mean one or the other. The reality was that it meant our room had twin double beds, possibly the most comfortable bed Ive ever slept in with the thickest pillows I’ve ever used!! (I was tempted to buy a suitcase to smuggle a couple of them out.)

The view out over Albert Park and the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit would have been great was it not obscured by trees, so we decided to perambulate along St Kilda beach and back along the “famous” Fitzroy Street (Judging by the number of bars and nghtclubs along here I’d guess infamous is more likely)