Reflections on A to Z 2013

a to z survivor_[2013]Time for the annual reflections post on this year’s April A to Z challenge.


My blog specifically

The opportunity to let people know this blog exists.Outcome: my readership, and my commenters, increased enormously.

The pleasure of sharing some beautiful places in Australia world-wide, a virtual tour. Outcome: this seemed to be well received.

The chance to have some fun with the Aussie-isms. Outcome: readers seemed to enjoy them, and it was interesting to see which phrases we have in common.

Outcome for me overall: I really enjoyed reading people’s comments and seeing places through their eyes. I found some great new-to-me blogs!

For the first couple of weeks I had posts pre-scheduled but then after significant computer problems, I was scurrying.  I had pre-planned my themes almost as last year’s challenge finished, and prepared a spreadsheet checklist of topics, though I did change one or two closer to the time.

It’s been great seeing that my visitors have come from all over the world, but I wish I’d thought to put a map counter on my blog before we started rather than after!

I’ve added a new page to my blog so all my A to Z 2013 posts are in one place.

A to Z in general

I really liked the coding to each blog and regretted not “reading the manual” before I posted my link. In my defence, that conspicuous warning notice hadn’t then been added.

I enjoy sharing across the different themes – like reading a different book genre it opens you up to new blogs.

There seemed to be fewer blogs requiring CAPTCHA shenanigans this year, but still some.

I did a Sunday Synopsis post for three weeks listing some of the blogs I read, but again technical problems and life in general slowed me down.

The tip to put our signature with a hot link to the A to Z blog was great! Thanks guys!


My blog specifically

I’d just completed the February Photo Collage Festival every day in Feb on my other blog so hitting another daily commitment for a month was a strain. I wouldn’t do back-to-back like that again.

Pre-planning the posts worked well as did scheduling posts, but the hunting for photos took a fair bit of time: an incentive to keep working on my photo archives in the coming year.

The technical problems I had with two laptops being started from scratch and learning new programs meant that I was playing catch-up for the last two weeks.

A to Z in general

I think the now-huge list is just too massive to cover. Perhaps it’s more reasonable to expect that bloggers aim for a more realistic target. For example I really don’t like fantasy writing (sorry authors!) so I’m unlikely to invest much time there, nor do I have any worthwhile comments to make. There are other themes where I’d happily spend my time.

While it’s nice to know someone has “liked” your post, I prefer comments – probably we all do. Having said that if I’ve commented on several posts on a blog I’d like to be able to just “like” another one or two of their posts. Many bloggers don’t provide a “like” option at all.

If I go to the trouble of making a comment I find it so frustrating if people don’t bother to respond. It feels like you’re left talking to yourself.

Some blogs seemed to have their A to Z posts quite obscured. Sidebar links? Top bars?

We all make typos from time to time, but some bloggers mis-spell so much it’s hard to make sense of what they’re saying. I’m being a grammar tyrant but it sets my teeth on edge. Yes, I know that’s down to individual bloggers and not the organisers or the challenge itself.

I follow my favourite blogs via Google Reader rather than subscribe via email and with the loss of Reader mid-year I’m going to have to move to Feedly or something else. The challenge is keeping up with reading the myriad blogs I follow especially when life gets in the way.


Right now I’m saying to myself “I’ve done two A to Z challenges I won’t do another” but that may be the February challenge speaking as well.

Give me a month or two and my position will be clearer. Much will depend on whether I have a theme I want to follow. (Oh no, I just thought of one!)


Thanks to Arlee Bird and all the co-organisers and supporters who visited many blogs. I wonder if they managed any sleep in April?

Thanks also to the new readers of my blog and the wonderful people who commented, once, twice or many times. You made my days!

Z is for THE END

a-to-z-letters-z Z is for THE END

Isn’t it a great achievement of determination and commitment for all of us to have reached the end of the A to Z challenge for 2013? I can’t wait for my Survivor’s Badge. Meanwhile…today we’re back over in the Kimberley in Western Australia.


Zebedee Springs is a fresh water spring on the El Questro property. It’s a popular spot for a cool swim and relaxation, so much so that the hours are regulated with residents in the morning and tour groups in the afternoon. I wouldn’t personally place it as high on my list as some of the more picturesque fresh water springs but I did enjoy my dip when we visited.Zebedee springs low


Zebra Rock is a strange geological feature of the Kimberley from near the Ord River (also home of those gorgeous Argyle pink diamonds!).

Zebra Rock low

Zebra Rock is a pretty and much cheaper souvenir if you’re over touring there. It looks nice when it’s polished up and oiled or lacquered – something that’s been on my “gunna” list for an embarrassingly long time. The diamonds are great too if you have a lots of cash to splash!

Working on the Zebra Rock.

Working on the Zebra Rock.

As this is the finale, I’d like to say THANK YOU for touring with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual travel and that it may encourage you to visit Down Under sometime. I still have lots of blog reading to catch up from with the challenge and I’m planning to do another Sunday Synopsis soon. I’ve enjoyed reading the stories others have written but I’m also miles behind with posts. 


Zac: is the vernacular term for the old sixpence, equivalent to the current 5 cent piece. Since decimal currency was adopted on 14 February 1966, the term has faded into near obligion.

Zonked: Exhausted, super tired from a big effort at something eg “I’m zonked from completing the A to Z challenge and I’m off to ‘catch some zzzs’.”

Z as an abbreviation: Most Australians have an obsessive compulsion to shorten names (just try that with my husband!!). A frequent modification is the replacement of part of the name with a couple of zzs. Sharon becomes Shazza: Barry is Bazza (why? It’s not even shorter); Dazza for Darren; Kezza for Kerry. I’m sure my Aussie mates will have some extras for you in the comments. I admit to being un-Australian in this regard –I really don’t like the habit.

See you soon – the photos and stories will continue, just not every day!

Image courtesy of Office Images online.

Image courtesy of Office Images online.

Y is for Yellow Waters

a-to-z-letters-yY IS FOR YELLOW WATERS

Way back at the letter C is for Cooinda I made reference to a touring feature based there. The Yellow Waters cruise is, for my money, one of the best things you can do in Kakadu National Park. For bird watchers or croc seekers it has plenty on offer. For those who want to chill out just pottering along through the waterways it’s just perfect.

A jacana (aka Jesus bird because they appear to walk on water), backlit by the sun.

A jacana backlit by the sun.

Whenever you visit you’re bound to see something different because nature doesn’t run to a schedule of activities: we’ve seen a croc take a large barramundi, brolgas dancing, jabiru, pelicans (occasionally), azure kingfishers, sea eagles and a steady avian diet of cormorants, night herons and jacanas.

A tranquil scene on Yellow Waters.

A tranquil scene on Yellow Waters.

A male jacana and a chick.

A male jacana and a chick.

During the Wet Season the cruise is one of the activities that still continues but it is different because the water is so much higher, and with more water around, the birds are less desperate for places to hang out.  On the flip side you may see magnificent wet season clouds, all puffy and thunderous against the sky.

A sea eagle with his catch, a file snake.

A sea eagle with his catch, a file snake.

As you cruise through narrow channels into the larger billabong and waterways I sometimes feel like I’m on a secret pathway. It’s a rare trip when we haven’t seen something special and on a recent trip (the first we’ve done for a while) we saw a gorgeous rainbow, tiny jacana chicks and a sea eagle up a dead tree with his capture of a file snake (good tucker for all apparently).

Pot of gold Yellow waters low

Is there a pot of gold at Yellow Waters?

During the Dry Season the birds proliferate but then so do the tourists, but since you’ll be one you can hardly complain <smile>. The tour guides are very efficient and knowledgeable about the area. Our most recent guide (Mandy I think from memory) was the daughter of a traditional elder and she had lots to share with us. Some guides are more into birds, other into culture and Indigenous life, but all know that the average tourist is desperate to see a crocodile (count me out!).

The locals enjoy throwing in a line when time permits.

The locals enjoy throwing in a line when time permits.

I was saddened to learn on the recent visit that the boats can no longer get down into the Melaleuca “swamp” where it was rather like being a serene yet spooky forest.

an old photo, probably the Dry Season, with pelicans,

an old photo, probably the Dry Season, with pelicans, water lilies, ducks and herons.

Everywhere you will see lotus flowers, water lilies and other flowering trees like some of the mangroves. What’s flowering again depends on the season.

Trying to impress his mate, this brolga was right into the dance.

Trying to impress his mate, this brolga was right into the dance.

If you do travel to the Territory I hope you take this short voyage because it’s superb, and if you’re staying overnight at the lodge, perhaps book for the sunrise or sunset trip because you can either get a gorgeous sunrise through the mist which rises off the water in the Dry Season, or a blood orange sunset.

A serene sunset  over the water.

A serene sunset over the water.

Why visit: If you love nature, birds or just the serenity of being on the water.

Coming on to the end of the afternoon, the colours and reflections were so pretty.

Coming on to the end of the afternoon, the colours and reflections were so pretty.

FYI: There’s are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

Snowflake water lilies look like something by Monet.

Snowflake water lilies look like something by Monet.


Yarn: chat or tell a story

Yakka: a brand of men’s work wear

Yakka: logically enough, hard work.

Youse: vernacular plural of you (used by some people but sets my teeth on edge)

Yobbo: a rough and ready person, rough around the edges, uncouth.

Y is for Yeehaa! Only one more A to Z post to go!

X is for Art

a-to-z-letters-xX is for X-RAY PAINTINGS

X-ray paintings are typical of the Aboriginal paintings which can be seen in the Wet Season caves and rock overhangs where the communities lived during the floods and heavy rains.  The paintings span centuries and are frequently painted, layer over layer, by succeeding generations of artists.

Some of the themes can be narrowed to particular time eg images of guns will only occur after the mid-19th century. Paintings of sailing ships may be more ambiguous as it’s known that the Macassan traders worked the northern coast of the Northern Territory. What’s interesting to me, is that these drawings aren’t by people who lived right beside the ocean, rather a little inland.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr. You can see a sailing ship to the left of where he’s pointing and further left, Mabuyu. P Cass 1991



Only specific people within the community who had the traditional responsibility could “touch up” the important paintings, which I believe was last done nearly 50 years ago. It’s interesting to me to look at photos taken back in 1991 when I first visited, with some taken last month. Paintings were a form of history keeping as well as telling cultural traditions and animals to hunt.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

I’m not going to try to explain the intricacies of the X Ray Paintings as I’m no expert. There’s an article here by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The style of painting is still reflected in some art work by Arnhem Land artists.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land. You can see people, fish and a turtle.

My photographs are taken at two sites, both in Kakadu National Park. One is Ubirr and the other is Nourlangie (or Burrunggui). There are a couple of galleries in each place, and it’s well worth visiting each. Do take time to sit down and have a breather and a sip of water. The longer you look, the more pictures you’ll see. At Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery, the iconic image of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man is the most popular feature.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Archeologists have dated Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery as having been in use for over 20,000 years. So much for Australia being a young country!

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

Nourlangie art low

The image on the left has a Wandjina vibe to me but I could very well be wrong.

Why visit: to see ancient art tell a story of life before white settlement, and stories of traditional culture and hunting.


The closer we get to the end of the alphabet, the fewer options for Aussie-isms, perhaps we really are lazy after all!

Today I leave you with a beer closely associated with my  home state of Queensland:

XXXX: Fourex beer is manufactured on Milton Rd in Brisbane, close to the famous Lang Park Rugby League grounds. XXXX is a Qld icon!

W is for Watarrka National Park

a-to-z-letters-wW is for WATARRKA NATIONAL PARK

Once known as Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park is a must-visit while you’re touring the Red Centre. It’s accessible by either 2WD or 4WD depending on which road you take. When we visited nearly 20 years ago it was a rather bumpy corrugated road but the Holden survived it happily, though our teeth had more of a challenge!

This said it all in 1995.

This said it all. Oops, I think this might be actually Karrajini NP in WA but you get the drift.

Watarrka continues the sub-theme of this challenge which appears to have been geological formations, as it seems I could have done almost a whole A to Z on “rocks and gorges I have known”.

Watarrka from a distance.

Watarrka from a distance.

For me what’s different about Watarrka is the colour of the Canyon rocks, a sort of dusty pink with splashes of cream, and the sheer cliff face. The Canyon walk can be both tedious and a bit daunting depending on your fitness or anxiety about cliff edges (one of my own phobias). However if possible it’s well worth the effort, but do plan to start out your walk early in the morning before the heat of the day kicks in. You can also go with a tour guide, for not much expense as I recall, but ours moved with a bit too much speed –it would have been nice to meander a little more.

The sheer cliff face of the Canyon. P Cass 1995

The sheer cliff face of the Canyon. P Cass 1995

At the foot of the rocks there are once again, hidden nooks, crannies and water holes which support a diversity of life and form a mini ecosystem.  These low-level walks are accessible to the less fit or those who have walking challenges.

Shaded nooks and waterholes provide sustenance for desert creatures.

Shaded nooks and waterholes provide sustenance for desert creatures.

I notice on the park’s website they feel the need to tell people: Watarrka, as with all National Parks is a protected area. Disturbance of plants, animals and natural features is an offence. It is prohibited to: break branches for fly swats; write or etch names on rocks; remove or displace the natural landscape i.e. rocks or flora. Cigarette butts, tissue paper and orange peel are three common and unsightly forms of litter.

I'm always amazed by the hardiness of some of our native trees.

I’m always amazed by the hardiness of some of our native trees.

I’d have thought that would be self-evident, “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints” but obviously the park rangers’ experience suggests that many people still don’t get it. Also don’t forget to slip on your shirt, slop on some suncream, slap on a hat, and carry some water!

Why visit: To enjoy another magical place in the desert and see some quite different rock formations and a canyon (but not on the scale of the Grand Canyon).

Join me tomorrow for some culture of a different sort.

Camels were brought into the desert by the Afghan traders of the 19th century.

Camels were brought into the desert by the Afghan traders of the 19th century.


I doubt that some of these are exclusive to Australia but these are today’s offerings:

Won’t have a bar of it: won’t touch it.

Waddya: Aussies have a common habit of slurring or abbreviating words. What do you….waddya…..

Wig wam for a goose’s bridle: my mother used to say this all the time. In essence it means mind your own business.

Weak as cat’s piss: a pathetic person with no commitment, or an argument that doesn’t hold up to logic etc.

Waffle: not the food that people have with ice cream and honey or maple syrup but meaning “talks vaguely on, and on about nothing of importance”.

Wally: a silly person

Wog: an Australian name from the post-war migration when there was a significant influx of Mediterranean immigrants. Sometimes meant as an insult, but not always, but perhaps that depends on whether you’re on the receiving end.

Wuss: cowardly or timid person, much the same as “chicken”. A minor insult intended to suggest, quite often, that someone is “a bit of a girl”.

V is for our valiant Indigenous ANZACs

My post today combines the A to Z challenge but also the annual Trans Tasman ANZAC day blog challenge.

An early ANZAC Day march in Townsville, Far North Queensland 1922.

An early ANZAC Day march in Townsville, Far North Queensland 1922, from the Townsville Library via Trove.

CULTURAL WARNING: This post contains images and references to deceased Aboriginal people.

An Indigenous soldier from Thursday Island, Far North Queensland.  Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

An Indigenous soldier from Thursday Island, Far North Queensland. Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Today is the 25th April, Anzac Day, which commemorates the landing of ANZAC troops on the beach at Gallipoli. For Australians this event has come to symbolise our practical emergence as a nation, only 14 years after being legally proclaimed. Many of the ANZAC traditions have been romanticised with less than perfect accuracy. As time passes the knowledge and research into our military history has become more mature revealing nuances which weren’t highlighted previously, and showing shadow as well as light.

Over the past 98 years Anzac Day itself has had a varied history. When I was a teenager it had lost its lustre, perhaps influenced by our involvement in the Vietnam War. These days it has a total resurgence of pride, aided by more Australia-focused history being taught in schools, rather than mostly the British history of my youth.

In this blog over the past weeks we’ve been visiting the diverse and magnificent scenery of the Northern Territory and the top, tropical, half of Australia’s two largest states, Queensland and Western Australia.

It’s appropriate today to keep our focus in the area but to look at how Indigenous people served their country during Australia’s war-time history. Traditionally overshadowed by the Gallipoli legend, the service of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been important in diverse ways.

At the time of World War I and II, Aboriginal people were not citizens in their own country, they were not counted in the nation’s census, they could not drink in public bars, nor did they have control of their own money or their movement eg they could not visit their own families at Christmas without the permission of the local Protector of Aborigines, often the local police constable.

Men from Melville Island on the Tiwis, who were recruited to help recover downed pilots and monitor the coastline.

Men from Melville Island on the Tiwis, who were recruited to help locate downed pilots and aircraft, and monitor the coastline.

As recruitment commenced for WWI, “full blood” Aborigines were not permitted to enlist as this quote reveals: “This decision definitely [excludes] the enlistment of full-blooded Aborigines, but instructions have been issued to medical officers that in deciding whether or not a person is substantially of European origin, they will be guided by the general suitability of the applicant”.

Not only does the quote illuminate a prejudiced and ambivalent attitude to Indigenous recruitment, it reveals how much it depended on a white person’s assessment of them. It also ignored whether the Indigenous community viewed them as being Indigenous, either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The very ambiguity reveals why some Aboriginal people did manage to enlist and serve side-by-side with their fellow Australians in all sites of war. Some 500 Indigenous men were among the 80,000 servicemen in the AIF, and 80 came from the Northern Territory[i].

The wedding of an Aboriginal servicemen in Brisbane 1917. Negative number: 60511 SLQ.

The wedding of an Aboriginal servicemen in Brisbane 1917. Negative number: 60511 SLQ. The men were Jim Lingwoodock and John Geary. Their brides are not identifed.

In World War II the situation was similar though the fear for Australia’s northern shores meant that Aboriginal people were also at the forefront of the country’s protection, whether actually serving or not.

It was the missionary at Bathurst Island from the Tiwi Islands, about 30 minutes flying time north of Darwin, who radioed the news of the Japanese bombers flying in to bomb the city. . Unfortunately it was regarded as some allied aircraft returning and the warning ignored. The Tiwis also played a role as the Japanese aircraft returned to their carriers. A couple of Zero aircraft detoured to strafe the Catholic church at Nguiu and also a DC3 on the runway. One crash-landed and it was a Tiwi man, Matthias Ungura, who captured the first Japanese Prisoner of War on Australian soil, Hajime Toyoshima, who would later be a key instigator, and die, in the Cowra POW breakout. To this day the Tiwi Islanders commemorate the capture of the POW and their attempt to warn Darwin in time.

A ceremony commemorating the Bombing of Darwin at Nguiu, and the Tiwis involvement in the war. 1995

A ceremony commemorating the Bombing of Darwin at Nguiu, and the Tiwis involvement in the war. 1995

Matthias Ungura stalked the Japanese pilot who was armed with a revolver and a knife. He is quoted as saying “He got proper big fright”. “I take revolver from his right side near his knee. Then I walk backwards pointing my gun. I say ‘Stick em up…right up…two hands…no more holding hands on head[ii]

Although still restricted in their ability to volunteer and enlist, some managed to do so, serving as officers, pilots and naval seamen. Others worked side by side with the extensive military deployment in the Northern Territory while some performed patrols searching out crashed aircraft and downed pilots, or monitored the coastline for Japanese military and naval activity. Their bush skills and knowledge of country meant that they could survive only on bush tucker and not need a supply line. Some women joined the Volunteer Air Observers Corp (as did my mother in Brisbane) learning to identify aircraft types and monitor the skies for enemy aircraft.

Japanese POWs on the Tiwi Islands with their Aboriginal capturers. AWM P00296.052 AWM

Japanese POWs on the Tiwi Islands with their Aboriginal capturers. AWM P00296.052 AWM

Aboriginal Pilot Flight Sgt Len Waters P01659.001 AWM image.

Aboriginal Pilot Flight Sgt Len Waters P01659.001 AWM image.

Probably the Indigenous men joined for many of the same reasons as the white volunteers: for adventure, seeing new places and defending their own country. However some would almost certainly have joined in the hope it might gain Aboriginal people citizenship rights on the land their ancestors had called home for over 40,000 years. This was not to be though, because that took another 25 years to come to pass, and it was not until the 1980s that they gained the back-pay they were due to put them on parity with their military peers and also official recognition of their service.

They returned home to the disenfranchised condition they had left, with few job opportunities, and extensive racial discrimination. Like their peers they had to face their wartime demons on their own –they couldn’t even go to the bar and have a drink with their former colleagues on Anzac Day, a traditional opportunity for the servicemen to re-bond and talk frankly among themselves, and have an equally traditional game of two-up.

The Australian Aboriginal League in the Sydney May Day procession 1947. Banners protest against restrictions on Aboriginal people. AWM Image P01248.00

The Australian Aboriginal League in the Sydney May Day procession 1947. Banners protest against restrictions on Aboriginal people. AWM Image P01248.00

The Australian War Memorial gallery of names.

The Australian War Memorial gallery of names.

The more you read of our Indigenous history, the more you appreciate why we have such a comprehensive social problem which seems almost unable to be resolved. As I’ve prepared this post I’ve come to realise just how paltry my own knowledge is, so my goal is to read more around the topic.

This is the first stanza of a poem called Black Anzac by Cecil Fisher.

They have forgotten him, need him no more

He who fought for his land in nearly every war

Tribal fights before his country was taken by Captain Cook

Then went overseas to fight at Gallipoli and Tobruk.

This Anzac Day, please remember our Indigenous servicemen who gave their lives, and their courage, to make life better for others.


[i] This story has been greatly assisted by a teaching resource Indigenous Service, a collaboration between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance. It draws on an exhibition held at the Shrine in 2009 called Indigenous Australians at war, from the Boer War to the present.

[ii] Smith, Heide. Tiwi: The life and art of Australia’s Tiwi People. Edition Habit Press, Adelaide, 1990, page 25.


Indigenous Australians at War

The Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are? have two excellent shows on Indigenous Australians, Olympic runner Cathy Freeman and footballer Michael O’Loughlin. Both were amazing for revealing what life was like for their Aboriginal ancestors, as well as their ANZAC heritage (Cathy Freeman) and cultural foresight (Michael O’Loughlin).

Or some of my own posts on Australian service during the war:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux (the 2012 Anzac Day post)

Fromelles, Lt WEH Cass and family collections (another exhibition at the Shrine)

Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam: L/Cpl James Augustus Gavin KIA

Remembrance Day 2012: Honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry.

The Battle of Milne Bay remembered in stained glass.

Australia Day 2012: Life for toil on the railway (including WWI Railway military service)

Again a quiet day:
Veg out: chill out, take it easy, relax
Verbal diarrhoea: talks non-stop/doesn’t know when to stops, blathers on “That bloke’s got verbal diarrhoea, you can’t shut him up”.
Happy little Vegemite: after an iconic advertisement for Vegemite – many Australians’ favourite sandwich spread. Expats have been known to get very desperate for a “fix” of vegemite. A happy little vegemite indicates someone is “as happy as Larry”, presumably because they’d had their Vegemite.
We’re back on the road in Central Australia tomorrow.

Uluru will woo you

U is for ULURU

Once again we’re off to the Red Centre today, right to the cultural, geographic and iconic heart of Australia, Uluru or Ayers Rock as it used to be known.

The colours of the desert and the Red Centre.

The colours of the desert and the Red Centre.

I can’t imagine there’d be too many of my readers who won’t have seen an image of this monolith either in a TV show or in a book.  Perhaps you might think that, like the EiffelTower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ve seen it so often “virtually” that’s there’s little point in actually visiting. You expect that you’ll arrive and think “oh, yes, that’s what it’s supposed to look like”.

Uluru colours

We were surprised when we visited Uluru on a long road trip from Brisbane via Adelaide, that it actually took our breath away. Like many we were initially fooled by Mt Connor with its look-alike appearance, but when you see the real thing, you’re in no doubt. I had no difficulty believing the Aboriginal sense of its religious significance. It may seem strange to say that a large lump of rock has an aura, but we found that it did. There is just something about it that holds you in thrall. Perhaps all those centuries of humans around it have imparted some human spirit as well.

Hidden nooks, crannies and eco[systems.

Hidden nooks, crannies and eco-systems.

I have a fear of heights so had no inclination whatsoever to climb the rock and was happy to abide by the local Aboriginal people’s request not to do so. Our two then-teenaged daughters did go to the top and took their time steadily getting there. I doubt that having lived in the Territory for so long now that they’d ever climb it again.

uluru close up

Huge variations in the rock face add interest and mystery.

Apart from the cultural prohibitions, there are practical reasons not to climb. It’s far from uncommon for people to die high up the rock from exertion, heat stroke or whatever. This means that the poor emergency service workers have to put their own lives at risk to get someone down.

Sunset over Uluru with a view to Kata Tjuta.

Sunset over Uluru with a view to Kata Tjuta.

There are alternative activities which will give you a much better sense of the place and my favourite was walking around the base looking at the colonies of plants and animals and seeing the impact of the heavy rains. I only wish we’d been there when it rained! If you’re there and it pours, don’t bemoan your fate, dash out with your camera and get some amazing photos. Check out this story about how a local photographer captured Uluru in a downpour. I’d give my eye teeth to see it running with rain like this and I was green as a shamrock when some of my work colleagues fluked exactly that.

The finger-like detail of the rock face.

The finger-like detail of the rock face.

We have some special memories of our camping stay at nearby Yulara. The ice on the water bucket in the morning (it was sub-zero) and the sound of our daughters tossing and turning under their heat blanket (they forgot their parkas when they left home to catch the plane to meet us). The sounds of the didgeridoo and singing from a corroboree nearby, and the howl of the dingoes.

One of the things this A to Z has done for me, is remind me how many places we need to revisit ourselves.

Why visit: to see Australia’s red heart and an iconic site. To learn more about Indigenous culture and life in the desert.


Not much to add here today so I’ll add a complete red-herring:

Rellie Run: the compulsory visit to the family interstate, very common in a place with many transient residents and where few have deep roots in the state. Hard to believe we’re now a three generation Territory family….where did the years go.

 Up the creek without a paddle: no hope

T is for Tropical Rainforests

a-to-z-letters-t Over the past few weeks we’ve been focused on the far north of Australia, especially the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in Western Australia. This part of the country experiences heavy rains during the summer months (usually December-March) and almost completely dry weather in the Dry (May-August).

For the Wet months of the year the country looks fresh and green and lush, but come the drier months, it quickly becomes steadily browner. For all the rain, you aren’t seeing tropical rainforest, rather tropical savannahs.P1000789

Over on the eastern coast in far north Queensland (FNQ), the story is different, especially north of Cairns where we’ll be heading today. This is tropical rainforest, lush, green and thick vegetation, one of 200 globally important eco-regions. The Daintree is a world-renowned touring location for Wet Tropics and with fewer and fewer rainforests world-wide is extremely important.


What this means for the tourist is a completely different experience of scenery, flora and fauna. While many world travellers come to see the Barrier Reef, the tropical rainforests are a great complement to that adventure.P1000783

The green of the jungle runs down to the water’s edge merging with shades of blue and turquoise, interspersed only by sandy beaches.  You don’t really need to do a tour of the area, unless you feel you really want to. A normal hire car will get you to most of the important places, but do make sure not to wander into the 4WD area only! There are lots of places you can explore without the 4WD vehicle.P1000760

The Daintree Discovery Centre with its aerial walkways and boardwalks is amazing, with a wealth of information about the wildlife which live in the rainforest and the plants that grow there. If you’re into nature you will inevitably need more time than you think. Check out the web link just to get a preliminary insight.P1000785

Cape Tribulation is a tranquil spot where the rainforest really does meet the sea. While you’re nearby a trip to the tropical fruit farm is an eye-opener. If you get a chance do try an ice cream made from the unusual tropical fruits. Or spend a night or two just relaxing in the area and communing with nature. There are some very glamorous places to stay.

Where the rainforest meets the reef nearing dusk.

Where the rainforest meets the reef nearing dusk.

We visited Mossman Gorge quite a number of years ago and just loved the sight of the river running over the huge boulders. We had afternoon tea overlooking the river –just delightful.SCAN1086

This area has a strong Aboriginal heritage too and there’s quite a lot of opportunities for travellers to learn more about Indigenous culture.

Take a steam train trip on the Kuranda scenic railway.

Take a steam train trip on the Kuranda scenic railway.

Closer to Cairns you can also see the rainforest by taking the Skyrail up to the ranges then perhaps coming back down via the Kuranda steam train, a fun adventure for all ages.

Why visit: to see one of the world’s great rainforest areas, to experience nature and see the flora and fauna. Enjoy the contrast between the sea, the sky and the sand.

A humorous take on avoiding cassowaries.

A humorous take on avoiding cassowaries.


A cassowary at Crocodylus Park, Darwin. These birds with vicious claws are native to the Daintree.

A cassowary at Crocodylus Park, Darwin. These birds with vicious claws are native to the Daintree.

Tinnie: this can be a beer can or a small aluminium boat for fishing.

Tong Master: the bloke in charge of the BBQ -usually the man in the house. In this context it’s almost 100% likely to be a man, surrounded by other blokes, beers in hand. Thanks Kellie for reminding me of this one 🙂

 Ticker: another dual meaning. It can mean heart as in “my ticker’s playing up” or courage in “he’s got a lot of ticker”

Too easy: Another new one which is in common use by Territory tradies. It’s the equivalent of “no worries” or “no problems”.

Togs: this is the Queensland name for a swimsuit –one of the words which differentiates people from different states.

 Trackie daks: tracksuit pants

Technicolour yawn: to vomit

 Thongs: rubber scuffs for your feet, as well as more recently the rather brief ladies’ underwear.

Tucker: food

S is for Slithering, Snapping, Stinging and Scary

S is for Ssssss

a-to-z-letters-sAustralians do love to stir visitors with the threat of its slithery, snapping, stinging, stabbing venomous critters. You might even say it’s a national hobby. Yes, we also have those cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos but it’s the surreptitious creatures that strike fear into many hearts, visitors and locals alike.

Add that to an Aussie’s love of the beach and you’ve got a very unfortunate combination, especially in Australia’s Far North where there’s even more of them, or as one daughter once said “I’m going where there are fewer creatures to kill me“: she’d had enough of stingers, salties and king brown snakes! But the Territory was under her skin and she came back.

Now that we’re up to the letter S, you’ve seen a lot of gorgeous places that you might want to add to your Bucket List. Today’s post is the warning notice that comes with your booking….you know, the contract’s small print. You’ll soon realise why so many of us prefer the pool to the beach if we live above the Tropic of Capricorn. So what have you got to be afraid aware of? Apart from the length of this post, that is.


A box jellyfish. Image from Wikipedia.

A box jellyfish. Image from Wikipedia.

These are the party poopers of the natural world of our Tropical zone…you look out at those magnificent blue seas but swimming is hazardous. Apparently stingers are also literate because they only hang around in the months with an R in the name (September to April).  We’re not talking blue bottles here, even though those can deliver a nasty sting to be remedied with your mother’s old blue bag from the washing. The box jellyfish of the tropical waters can/may kill you or, at a minimum, deliver an incredibly painful sting. Deaths may be rare but I know personally of at least one case where a small child died. Vinegar over the sting helps, but not going in the water helps even more.

Some beaches on the north east coast of Queensland are protected with stinger nets, but unfortunately the Top End of the NT and WA have such tidal extremes that nets are impossible.

 Snapping Salties

I snapped this croc at Crocodylus Park. You get the picture!

I snapped this croc at Crocodylus Park. You get the picture!

Saltwater crocs abound in our waterways, especially since culling became illegal. All river systems, the ocean and many billabongs provide them with a lovely home and food source. They’re there and they’re dangerous…seriously dangerous.  The local rag newspaper keeps track of how many are removed from Darwin Harbour each year: we’re already up to 59 this year….and that’s just the ones they’ve trapped.

Visitors to town can visit Crocosaurus Cove where you get an example of the fierceness and strength of their jaws –their “snap factor”. Where else might one’s small grandchildren automatically ask if there are crocs in a waterway and know that crocs will take their prey in a death roll underwater before stashing it under a log?

And if you’re camping make sure you’re not too close to a waterway unless you fancy being “human en croute” for Mr or Ms Croc.

If you’ve visiting Darwin, do add the Museum to your touring list. It’s an excellent tourist venue and you can see all these scary creatures safely preserved where they can’t hurt you! A popular feature is Sweetheart the saltwater croc which has an interesting story. (Have a coffee or lunch or smoko in the Cornucopia Cafe while you’re there and enjoy the great view of the Sea).



A king brown or mulga snake, common around the Top End. Image from Wikipedia.

Australia apparently has more venomous snakes than anywhere else in the world (too far for St Patrick to get here it seems!). I grew up around a fair few snakes because we lived near a creek with natural bush. I have great respect, and a high degree of loathing, for them. My Dad’s advice was always to stand very still for a short while, then ever so slowly walk backwards for a way. My addition was “then run like hell”. This training proved very helpful one day at the beach when I found myself, in bare feet, less than a foot from a mercifully snoozy death adder. Mind you, I didn’t much like all my fellow wood-collectors screaming and shrieking at the same time.

When walking in the bush it certainly pays to keep your eyes peeled (and wear shoes!) as a sunning-itself snake can look remarkably like a fallen branch. Not to mention there are some cracker water snakes, all of which are venomous if the museum is to be believed.

Mercifully there are a lot of anti-venenes available for the most prevalent snakes.

Shark wikipediaSharks

The other scary water creature is the shark which is certainly out there in the tropical waters but takes a lower profile thanks to the stingers and salties. Further south, where they’re the main water hazard they have a well deserved reputation for dangerous attacks. Perth seems especially vulnerable. Coastal Queensland has some shark nets out past the surf which are monitored.

 Spiders, Shells, Stonefish

Did you think I’d finished with scaring you?

We have more than our share of poisonous Spiders but really they tend to be played down in the larger scheme of things. Not to say they’re not potentially dangerous!

A stonefish in an aquarium is far more obvious than in the natural world. Image from Wikipedia.

A stonefish in an aquarium is far more obvious than in the natural world. Image from Wikipedia.

I love collecting Shells but even these have life-threatening potential. In my pre-ecologically-aware youth I used to collect shells from the reef at Magnetic Island. Cone shells have a barb that shoots out if you pick them up so you need to learn the correct way to do so (with the narrow end facing away).

Stonefish are another hazard of tropical waters and especially around Queensland’s north. They’re the ugliest creatures you might see and extremely difficult to spot at low tide huddled in the dark sand or mud. Stand on one and you’ll know all about it! Hence why wearing shoes is wise when roaming the reef at low tide.

Scared yet? How about some gardening?

Perhaps all these hazards of the natural world have frightened you off and you think a nice safe spot of gardening will do the trick.

Well no, because during the Wet Season there’s another hazard: Nightcliff Gardening Disease (after a Darwin suburb) is its common name but more correctly it’s Melioidosis. Most people aren’t susceptible but those with poor immunity or perhaps diabetes are at risk of infection and subsequently amputation or even death.

 S is for the Stuart Highway

My original plan had been to talk about the Stuart Highway, aka The Track, which runs from Darwin south to Alice Springs then Adelaide. However, I decided to make S a more fun post and I’ll share the important history of the Track after the A to Z is finished.  If you want to see where it is, and just how pivotal it is to touring the Territory: you can see the highway represented by a steady stream of yellow flags.

Map for A to Z
Why visit: For all that these risks are real, plainly they’re also not statistically high or Australia would have an even smaller population! It’s all a matter of common Sense and taking appropriate precautions. Surely all those wonderful Sights and Scenery outweigh a few risks.


A galah. Image from Wikipedia.

A galah. Image from Wikipedia.

Silly galah: a foolish person, might be affectionate, or not. After our vivacious and slightly silly pink and grey bird of the same name. Not too dissimilar to “as silly as a two bob (cheap) watch”

Shrapnel: small coins/change (I’ve got so much shrapnel in my purse my handbag is heavy).

Station: This is an important one! In this context it’s a large property for grazing animals. These are NOT called ranches in Australia.

Stockman: a person who works on a station rounding up cattle etc.

Sanger: Sandwich

Sanger short of a picnic: a bit mad or crazy, not “all there”.

Snake in the grass: lying treacherous person

Scab: someone who works when other staff are on strike. This is a mega-insult. Alternatively “can I scab a few dollars off you” means “borrow”.

Skippy: Kangaroo or wallaby

Smoko: tea break –especially used by tradies or people on the land

Sweet: Not sure where this one came from but a more recent expression meaning “it’s all good” or “happy with that”

Join me Tomorrow as we Tarry in the Tropics.

Sunday Synopsis A to Z challenge: 21 April 2013

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9 (1)This week has been something of a shambles with more technical problems. My writing and reading have both fallen behind so I’ll have a lot to catch up on this week. Meanwhile I leave you with only a couple of blogs:

Pick of the Week has to be my friend Kristin’s blog Finding Eliza as she has been listed as one of the Top 40 Genealogy Blogs for 2013. This is what Family History Magazine said about her blog:

Through family photos and old newspaper clippings, Kristin Cleage Williams tells the story of the family she’s been researching since 1963. Reading her blog takes you into the personal side of the civil rights movement—her father was a prominent minister—as well as efforts to combat segregation in the early part of the 20th century.

If you ever thought history was irrelevant or that your family had nothing to do with proper history, do read Kristin’s blog as it will change your mind – we all play our part, small or large.

Branches, Leaves and Pollen (Amy is writing about family history)

 Simply Sarah is writing a short, imaginative children’s story each day.

My apologies for this  short list…if you haven’t looked at my previous two weeks’ blog recommendations why not check them out.. 

Thanks to all those who’ve visited my blog, those who’ve commented, and especially those who’ve chosen to follow me. 

There’s some big adventures this week so I hope you enjoy the journey.