Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

I hadn’t been to Healesville sanctuary (for Australian native animals) for several decades, so I thought it was time to visit again. I had intended to do so on my birthday but the weather forecast for the day was pretty shit. I therefore changed it to the day before. Luckily I had no work on.

It was about an hour’s drive and the first time I’d driven the new car at 100 km (you can tell I don’t get out much) for a short part of the journey. I think I was one of the first arrivals for the day. The first animal to come into view was the cassowary in a wire-fence enclosure, which wasn’t great for photography (or for the autofocus).


However, the koalas made up for that. There were about seven or more, easily seen.


What struck me was that they all looked so different – their characters showing up in their faces.


Such a gorgeous animal, and so sad that their habitat is being destroyed.

While I was admiring the koalas, a little bird was flitting around freely. It was a spotted pardalote and I found it difficult to get a good picture (autofocus problems or moving too quickly, or both).


Nearby were a small group (a mob?) of kangaroos lazing around.


Further on, a wombat, actually visible. Mostly they’re hiding in some burrow and I never get to see them properly, but this one obliged.


The day had started out well and there was much more to see.

One of the highlights was seeing a baby tree kangaroo in its mother’s pouch.


The next bird spotted (unspotted, haha) was a white-browed woodswallow.


(By this stage I was thanking myself for having emptied the memory card before the trip, as I had already taken dozens of photos.)

In an enclosure which you could walk into was a very striking bird with large eyes which just gazed at me.


Bush stone-curlew

Further on, in another enclosure was an echidna. My daughter had been lucky enough to see one in the wild. I couldn’t remember seeing one before at all (unless it was when I was a child).


Among the many birds I photographed was the purple-eyed Satin Bowerbird,


the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin,


and the very tame white-headed stilts.


Actually, I took a lot of bird photos (too many to share).  There were several walk-in aviaries dotted around the sanctuary.

The rock wallaby was cute, posed on a suitable rock.


The pelicans were being fed as I passed by them on the way to see Tofu, a Tasmanian devil.


I listened to the keeper give a talk about Tasmanian devils. They don’t actually deserve their reputation of being aggressive (like a wolverine). They are when it comes to food and mating, but they’re mostly solitary. They’re always pictured with their mouths open showing their teeth in an aggressive fashion but it’s more likely to be defensive. Sadly the facial cancer has killed off about 70% of the wild population. Tofu was pretty chilled.


I thought he was pretty cute and he’s popular with the keepers.


The sanctuary breed devils with others from fresh stock who are not diseased. They’re tested before they’re released to the wild (and are not displayed in public). I didn’t listen to the rest of the talk as I headed over to the bird show (rather like the show in Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park).

A couple of birds of prey flew around overhead, and also a sulphur-crested cockatoo. Then a young wedge-tailed eagle entered. He was supposed to open up a fake egg but didn’t co-operate.


We waited and waited as the handler seemed to think the bird would do as expected. He was more interested in sitting on a branch nearby.


It was obvious he wasn’t going to do anything and I’m surprised they couldn’t get the bird back and bring out another, so the rest of the show was cancelled, sadly. Knowing that he was young and inexperienced, they should have had him come out at the end of the show.

No Australian animal park would be complete without snakes and lizards.



Probably the highlight for the day was the lyrebird. I entered a bird enclosure and was looking round, having spotted a superb fairywren, when I heard some sounds. I thought it was a recording of the lyrebird (never expecting to see it or hear it perform). It wasn’t. I spotted it under some ferns but couldn’t get a good view as I recorded sound. Among the sounds it made was currawong and kookaburra as well as a weird space gun-type noise. Instead of uploading my videos, I’ve attached one below with the lyrebird in view. (These people were lucky enough to see its tail feathers displayed.)


The bird came out after its performance.


Small birds flitted around, including the Eastern yellow robin.


Next up was the water birds (after the parrots). On the way, a skink was on the path.


There was a wide variety of graceful wading birds, many of which I had not seen before,


Pied heron


Eastern cattle egret

and others I had, including the Royal spoonbill which I had seen in the wild in New Zealand, but now I got a closer look.


The aptly-named blue-billed duck, was swimming around.


The last animal I saw was a dingo, just lying in the dust, looking off somewhere. Autofocus did not like the wire fence.

I had a late lunch before heading off home. Not to be outdone, the white ibis (known colloquially as the “bin chicken”) got in on the act. It was very interested in my sandwiches. I had to shoo it off several times before it could snatch a piece.


So, a wonderful day.  I took over 300 photos, so the above is just a fraction. I would recommend it over Melbourne zoo, which I personally dislike and would never go back to.









Read Full Post »

A new year

Things will change this year. I’m over having two part-time jobs. I’ve applied for another and in the likely event that I won’t get it, I will try to wangle five days a week out of one of my part-time jobs, which seems possible, I’m glad to say. I want my weekends back, my evenings back, my time to be my time. Bugger this working all hours at the drop of a hat, having to make excuses if you don’t want a shift, spending way too much time doing administrative stuff on their secure website (which takes ages to load), keeping up with pathetic goals, doing inordinate amounts of training in stuff you’ve done several times before. It’s all just a bit too PC. I’m sick of it. I haven’t had time to do what I want to do.

So, this year, as soon as possible, I’ll get rid of the weekend/evening work and then can actually do stuff, like blog, take photos, plan trips out of Melbourne. I feel like I’ve spent my whole time at work with just one day off a week. I had to forgo the walking group and the Welsh dancing in the weekends because of work. I had to turn down voluntary work because I didn’t have any spare time.

First up is a trip to Ballarat next Saturday. Normally I’m working on Saturday but I got rid of the shift. Then a trip to NZ to see bro. I haven’t told anyone in PN as I won’t have a car this time, and am uncertain whether I’ll be in town long enough to visit. If I do it can be a surprise. In the meantime I don’t want to commit to anything. Then in July I’ll head over to see my friend in the Cook Islands. Then C is talking of spending Xmas in NZ this year which would mean another trip. And while the weather is good M and I must get out and about and explore Melbourne environs. The summer goes by so quickly.

Ok, time to get ready for a shift this arvo. How exciting – not.

Read Full Post »

Day four

I just had a morning left in Sydney, flying out in the afternoon.

I headed to the Queen Victoria building to go downstairs to the home/kitchen ware shop. Always worth a visit, for some reason.



I couldn’t stay away from Circular Quay and walked back there. It was much nicer with fewer people around.


I wandered up to the opera house.



Had a beer for my father (looked on by seagulls).


Watched the bridge walkers.


It’s not something I would do, being scared of heights. I don’t even like going up ladders.

Alas, all too soon, it was time to head to the airport.

I said farewell to Sydney from the train platform.


It was a nice flight down,


then I was back in Melbourne, catching the bus to Southern Cross, then home.




Read Full Post »

Day three

I didn’t have any great plans today apart from meeting a cousin from the other side of the family.

I walked down to Circular quay and had planned to wander around the Rocks area. I hadn’t known there was a marathon on which affected access to some places.


However, I walked where I could and explored the streets.


I found the Argyle Cut, which I hadn’t seen since a visit with my father decades ago.


There used to be some stalls, etc, in an old building in The Rocks, but it now appears to be privately owned or something – looked like some sort of restaurant or hotel. These guys looked as baffled as I felt. It seemed a waste of heritage real estate.


Next to it were some outdoor stalls, but overall, a very disappointing experience. I had a pretty crap coffee and people-watched. Perhaps it was just too early in the day.


I battled crowds to get to the opera house, which I hadn’t yet visited in my trip of reminiscences. It wasn’t worth the struggle to get through really.


What am I saying? Away from the crowds, it’s always worth it.


Pretty soon, it was time to catch a train to Bondi Junction to meet up with my cousin.


Cousin P met me at the station and we got a bus to a cafe at Bondi beach, which she and her husband regularly visit. I had never met her husband in the all the years she’s been married to him. They have three adult children, all of whom I have never met either. As for P herself, I last saw her at her mother’s 90th, seven years ago. I finally met D, P’s husband at the cafe.

Nice view of the beach from the cafe but it’s not Manly. It looks barren in comparison.


We headed to their house not far from the station. Lovely little semi-detached with period features. Had a good yarn and a cuppa.

I headed back on the train with no real plans for the rest of the day. I walked to Darling Harbour, feeling a little tired and wondering what to eat for dinner. I wandered along to the aquarium and realised that much more had been developed past that since my last visit. I kept walking. I wasn’t hungry but was content to sit and watch people.

Rather than walk back, I got a ferry to Circular quay, via Luna park. By this time the sun was getting low.




A sailing ship appeared – probably one of those training ships.


I thought I was farewelling Circular Quay and the harbour so I watched the ferries for some time.



I got a train back to Museum station from Circular Quay (the ferry and train trip had been free, thanks to special Sunday rates). I can’t recall what I ate for dinner but it was light. I had been eating croissants every morning, and, no longer being used to eating so much bread, I felt I had put on weight. I won’t do that again on my next trip. Pottles of yoghurt will probably be better.



Read Full Post »

Day two

Today I’d planned to visit Manly – another place of family memories – for myself and my father in particular. I think he said it was his favourite place. I have a picture of myself as a baby sitting on the sandy beach. Besides which, I love ferry trips.

I left fairly early. I had not expected the streets to be so empty even at that hour on a Saturday (compared to Melbourne which seems crowded no matter what time of the day or night it is).


A cruise ship was in. Giant things they are. I have no desire to ever go on one (except perhaps for river cruises).


It was hot and sunny. I was not prepared for this, coming from cold, gloomy Melbourne. I had to buy sunglasses and, in Manly, sun block.

I didn’t go onto the beach.


I had planned to follow a track around towards North Head, something I had not done before either. I stopped briefly at Cabbage Tree Bay (or Shelly beach) where I met a bush turkey. I hadn’t seen one since my trip to northern NSW many years ago.


I followed the Shelly beach walking track above.


By now the heat had started to turn up. I think it got to 32 deg. I loved it. Such a change from the long and dreary winter in Melbourne.

It felt good to see the Tasman sea for some reason. Melbourne might be close to the sea but it’s not “there” to be seen. Sydney is a city of beaches, Melbourne not so.



I enjoyed the track. Hardly a soul on it. I tried to imagine what the area would have looked like before the likes of Captain Cook came to “discover” it.



I had forgotten that there were wartime outposts on the head, so it was a surprise to see tracks off to view them.


By now it was evident that the shoes I was wearing (the coolest of the few I brought) were not comfortable enough without socks to continue walking far, so when I reached Bluefish Drive and saw that the track on the other side was another hour or so, I decided to head back towards the ferries via Little Manly beach. A nice view of the ferry…


I stopped to look at the idyllic beaches across the way,


and couldn’t help thinking “You lucky bastards”.


The sea was unbelievably clear, so different to the polluted waterways of much of NZ.


There was a small cafe nearby, but it was rather crowded and packed with kids and pushchairs or strollers or whatever they’re called these days. So I continued up the hill and over towards the ferry terminal.

Hard to believe it was only September and it was like a summer’s day.


If I’d had my togs (or bathers/swimmers in Aus), I would have been tempted to join them.

I stopped at the bar next to the terminal and indulged in a beer. I would have wanted to do this with my father. We never shared a beer together on our last visit to Sydney. As if echoing my thoughts, I overheard a woman at a nearby table “Want another beer, dad?”


What a view…


I took the return ferry trip, taking lots of photos, especially as we approached the iconic bridge and opera house.




On my walk back to the hotel, I had planned on looking inside St Mary’s cathedral.

However, turns out there was a fancy wedding going on. I continued to the hotel.

I didn’t think much of the nearby aquatic fitness centre. Looked pretty bloody small (joke).


That evening, instead of 2 minute noodles in the hotel room, I decided to go to an Asian restaurant down the road in World Square. I went to Din Tai Fung which was recommended. I’m not in the habit of eating in a restaurant alone. It just feels weird. I ordered more noodles (idiot) with dumplings and added spinach (not realising that was extra). It had a flavour that I couldn’t identify and didn’t like. Oh well. I was in and out of there within 20 minutes (probably more like 10-15). With no-one to talk to there was little point hanging around.

My last full day in Sydney up next. Too short a visit.


Read Full Post »

The first thing I wanted to do in Sydney was visit the Welcome Wall. A few years back I paid for my great-great grandfather’s name to be added to the wall of immigrants to Sydney. It’s only his name, not the name of his wife and surviving children (that cost extra). Still, I thought it was worth doing and was my tribute to him.

It was a sunny day. I had brought a light jacket but only needed it first thing. I walked via Hyde Park. The war memorial had some works going on around it so it was fenced off. What I did see was a sculpture of giant bullets commemorating fallen soldiers. I thought it was pretty shit, having a monument of symbols of their death. Turns out it was for indigenous soldiers, which is fine, but I still think it’s fucking ugly.


Onward to the Maritime museum. I wandered round to the wall while waiting for the museum to open. It’s a pity that they didn’t add dates next to names. It would have added meaning to the long list of names most people will never look at. Details are on the computer at the Maritime Museum (but I forgot to look).


I paid for entry into the museum (had never been there before). The person at the counter recommended I do the ship tours first as a school group was about to arrive and I didn’t want to get in amongst them on the ships – good plan. While waiting for the ships to open up, I had a look at the photos of Wildlife Photographer of the year on display in the museum (a strange venue for it).

Anyway, first I went to visit the replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour.


There were several volunteer guides dotted around the ship to explain each section. It was very good. I imagine it was pretty cramped aboard for the 70-odd crew – it would have been hot and smelly.


(Love the cat.)


While hammocks were set up for the masses, the officers, of course, had their own cabins, but they weren’t large!


The captain had a larger cabin with natural light.


He was a big man so he would have been stooping a lot. Joseph Banks was also tall – too tall to actually sleep in his cabin.

The nicest area was at the bow of the ship.


Cramped but pleasant quarters for the officers.

The guides were knowledgeable and informative. I think I spent an hour on the ship. I would recommend it!

Next on the plan before the hoards of kids (who just arrived as I left the Endeavour) was the 1960s submarine, even more cramped. You would not want to be claustrophobic (or big).


Imagine cooking in this tiny space (the heat! Yegods!)



The first guide, by the torpedoes, was good. The others didn’t even interact. They were sitting around looking bored and were sort of there if you wanted to ask something. So I zoomed through it and was out again. I only had time to visit the museum itself briefly before my rendezvous with a cousin (who I hadn’t seen since the late 70s).

I walked towards Circular Quay and got my first glimpse of the Opera House before continuing to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where my cousin had said there was a good cafe.


She was running late, so I just sat and absorbed the atmosphere of Circular Quay, probably my favourite place anywhere. (I’m not a huge fan of contemporary art, so I didn’t bother looking around inside.)


View of the quay from Museum of Contemporary Art

The view from the cafe was amazing.


The cafe was no more expensive than anywhere else and cousin and I got a seat outside. Nice food. It was great to catch up, although this cousin is from the side of the family who are not sentimental at all. Very matter of fact.

After lunch I wandered round to the Botanic gardens via the opera house.


It was pleasant in the gardens, with a view of Pinchgut island (or Fort Denison as it is properly known).


I headed up to Mrs Macquarie’s seat, which I’d never done before.


I had to wait some time for groups of Asian visitors taking photos of each other sitting there (of course). Above is about a split second between them. I continued on.

Naturally, there were some obligatory bird photos to be taken as well.



I slowly headed back to the hotel, via the Art Gallery.


Impressive building, but I was rather disappointed inside. Australian paintings were mixed in with European from all eras. It seemed muddled and quite small compared to the NGV in Melbourne (a place I never tire of). I had wanted to stop for a coffee but the queue was so long and unmoving that I didn’t bother.

So ended day one. I  had not intended for another day-by-day description of this trip, but I don’t want to make it extra long either. And it’s difficult to choose just one photo out of hundreds that I took (and that no-one will ever get to see).

Read Full Post »


I love Sydney. Some of the happiest moments of my life were there. I suppose I love it because of the memories. I wish I could turn back time and re-live it (and take lots of pictures). My parents were Australian so we often visited my grandparents in Sydney, sometimes staying with one grandparent in Croydon and sometimes the other in Westmead (to be exact), so that train line was very familiar.

I hadn’t been to Sydney for about four years, and that was during a conference anyway, so it didn’t really count. I had to steal time away just to visit Circular Quay for a few moments. So it was time to re-visit on my own so I could do whatever I liked for as long as I liked. I had booked a stay for the equivalent of four days but I could have spent longer.

I love train travel so had decided to go to Sydney by train (a long 11 1/2 hours) and fly back. I caught the 8.30 am XPT train from Southern Cross. Unfortunately, I was sat next to a young woman who said not a word during the whole journey and barely looked out the window, which she was next to. Why do people, who are lucky enough to sit next to a window, never actually look out? It pissed me off a little, but there you go. The scenery was interesting enough to keep me amused for most of the journey (until it got dark). I did read a bit but wanted to see the countryside. Lots of canola fields.


Into New South Wales and the land was noticeably drier. It got quite rocky towards Goulburn. At Goulburn I got out at the station to take a photo but the (horrible) woman guard or whatever she was ushered me back in straight away. “Oh, no, we don’t have time to let people out”. She kept picking on a guy who wanted to sit at an empty seat, directing him back to his allotted seat. So, I took photos from the train through a grimy window. I must go back and explore more thoroughly and try to find my great-great-grandfather’s grave.


By the time it got dark, I had had enough of the train, particularly the noisy bloody aircon. I treated myself to a pie and a beer and waited for Sydney.

I was happy to finally arrive at Central station (where I hadn’t been for 10 years). It took me a while to find the correct platform for the city circle. I got out at Museum station and walked to the hotel. All good, and I was happy to be in my favourite city.

More later. Time runs away from me…


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »