Friday Flowers: Pansies and memories

As you know I photograph flowers whenever I travel and in Salt Lake recently, that was pansies..they were in large pots along the footpaths. The poor little things couldn’t quite decide if they should be out, and at times looked a little frost-bitten and scraggly despite the unseasonally warm weather.

Pansies always remind me of my mother, who grew them in her garden before her move to the retirement home. They are also a reminder of Mum’s aunt, who loved pansies and also gave me little teacups with pansy patterns.

So here are my frosty Salt Lake City pansies.


Just checking if you noticed. These tulips were in Harmon’s grocery for $5 so I indulged in a bunch for my hotel room…it’s not often I’m in one place long enough when travelling to buy flowers.

DSC_2789 DSC_2790 DSC_2801 DSC_2803 DSC_2819 DSC_2821 DSC_2827 DSC_2828Which is your favourite? Mine is the last one…but then I’m a purple obsessive.

I hope these gorgeous flowers have brought sunshine and happiness to your day.


On the Road: Mataranka Hot Springs

Yes it looks like a swimming pool and it has been formed into a man-made pool, but it’s a natural phenomenon: hot springs at Mataranka.

It’s ages since we’ve been here but it was a great stop on the final day of my July drive home. Being the Dry Season the weather was in the balmy late 20s so a warm dip was just perfect and so refreshing. Don’t you wish you could be here?

You can even combine this interlude with a bit of culture as it’s closely associated with an autobiographical novel many Australians will have read: We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn, about her life on Elsey Station. There’s a model of the homestead near the parking lot.
Blissful bathing_edited-1

On the Road: Overland Telegraph Line

One of the hazards of trying to cover over 1000kms a day driving is that there’s not much time to stop and take in the sights along the way. On my way home from Queensland I was driving the last half on my own so making time for breaks was a good idea.

I may have been tireder than I thought -this image is a "bit" wonky.

I may have been tireder than I thought -this image is a “bit” wonky.

It was the first time I’d ever stopped for this memorial stone but although uninspiring of itself, the achievement behind it was staggering. This memorial commemorates the opening of the Overland Telegraph Line on 22 August 1872 (should have posted this last week). Working from both the north and the south, both ends of the line were connected on this day: an amazing achievement under any terms and even more so considering it was completed in two years!. Australia was no longer distant from the happenings of the world, and as with the internet today, became part of a world-wide web of information at the click of the keys.

It’s difficult to imagine the sheer commitment of the men who built the line over thousands of kilometres in some of the world’s most inhospitable and then-remote locations. Their hard work and dedication changed Australia’s connections with the world. On a domestic note, can you imagine the colour of their clothes after working in that red dirt for months on end.

My thanks to Helen Smith for her Facebook entry which alerted me to the anniversary last week.

Overland telegraph info

Shadow Shot Sunday: Trembling in the light

After a frenetic burst of activity through April with the A to Z challenge this poor blog has been languishing in the shadows itself. Time to bring it back into the light.

Trembling in the light

Brazen flowering plants

Compete with the sun

Tropical light trembles

Reveals the cooler shadows.

Shadow Shot Sunday

Check out the other amazing photos in Shadow Shot Sunday.

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!

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

R is for roaming the roadways

renner-springs-windmill-11R is for RENNER SPRINGS

One of our regular overnight stops on the long drive to Brisbane is Renner Springs, especially when we set out from here later than intended. On the face of it, Renner Springs appears to be a pretty boring road stop with not much to recommend it but pop over to my post about the surprising things you might see if you wander around a bit, or if you’re up early.

R is for ROAMING

Since we’re on the road I thought today we’d have a chilled-out kind of R day and check out some of the weird and wonderful signs we’ve seen on those long-distance drives.

Just to set the scene I want to show you an image to capture just how vast our distances are as I’ve mentioned previously. Darwin is about equidistant to Brisbane on the east coast or Adelaide in the south, roughly 3300kms. I took this photo a few years ago on the coast of Ireland. Moscow anyone?

Yes we are a long way away from "anywhere".

Yes we are a long way away from “anywhere”.

The roads of the north are regularly sprinkled with road trains. They’re BIG and very daunting. With the prime mover and three or four trailers they can be up to 50 metres in length and be travelling at around 100kph.  Fortunately the drivers are generally responsible but it can take a long time to pass one of these even at the legal open-road limit of 130kph. So this is how to deal with them. I always have my heart in my mouth when I have to overtake one. 603 Road train sign

The large frill neck lizard is a feature of the Top End, as are Dry Season fires.

The large frill neck lizard is a feature of the Top End, as are Dry Season fires.

This road sign was at Mataranka, about 4 hrs south of Darwin. Not that I've seen brolgas there.

This road sign was at Mataranka, about 4 hrs south of Darwin. Not that I’ve seen brolgas there.

There are crocodile warning signs on most of the waterways in the Top End -with good reason -this is just one example. Do take them seriously…this is not a “beat up”: people and animals can and do get taken by crocs…not many live to tell the tale.Croc warning And if anyone can explain what a rhinoceros has to do with the Northern Territory I’d be happy to learn. We saw this on the way to Alice Springs one year.

Rhinoceros in the NT?

Rhinoceros in the NT?

This edited road sign on a Queensland road was a humorous warning of the hazards of cattle on the road. obey the cow god

A innovative response to marketing - start advertising at a distance! Only 2000kms away.

A innovative response to marketing – start advertising at a distance! Only 2000kms and another State away.

When we visited Tasmania a few years back, during poppy season, we were much taken with this signage on the fences. (so okay this is in the south, but how could I resist) P1030087 TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Ripper beauty: Excellent, great idea etc. Or just “ripper” on its own.

Ratbag: another insult, generally mild and may even be somewhat admiring when it’s implying cheeky and the like.

Ring-in: someone or something that doesn’t belong, an extra on an outing. I’ve brought along a ring-in, hope that’s okay.

Ringer:  has two uses: (1) as the shearer of sheep with the highest tally (of sheep shorn) in a certain time (2) stockman droving cattle; and sometimes (3) as in dead ringer (below)

Dead ringer: a look-alike eg she’s a dead ringer for ….name your famous person. Or she’s a dead ringer of her mother at that age.

Reckon: estimate of cost or an opinion. I reckon he’s bitten off more than he can chew this time OR I reckon it would be worth a hundred bucks.

Rip off: when the cost of the item is more than it’s worth.

RMs: short for R M Williams – boots, jeans, hats, belts, the ridgey didge bushman’s clobber (clothing)

Ridgey didge: True blue, fair dinkum, honest, the real thing, the genuine article.

Ranch: Australians do NOT have ranches!!!

O is for the Olgas ( Kata Tjuta) and Open Gardens

O is for the OLGAS

The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, as this rock formation is now known, is part of the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta’s more famous big sister tends to take the highest profile but if you’re heading for the Red Centre you should allow time to do both parts of the park. This national park is truly Australia’s red heart and is smack bang in the middle of the country and probably encapsulates the sense of the Outback more than anywhere else.

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

Kata Tjuta is all curves as each rocky dune looms against the vivid blue of the desert sky. The contrasting colours are magnificent with the green of the Spinifex looking almost lime-coloured on film and in some light. It provides its own dot-painting effect against the vivid ochre red of the rock formation. Tucked among the rocks are hidden spots where the desert animals can live, survive and even thrive. A quiet bushwalker has the benefit of hearing the birds and may even see some creatures as well.

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The track through the Valley of the Winds is peaceful and restorative, as well as tiring! This is certainly an experience best savoured in the cooler months of the year when overnight it can be decidedly chilly, especially in a tent or swag. Those hot summer months (about October to April) are best avoided as most people will find them unbearable. Do plan to hang around at the Olgas towards the end of the day so you can see the setting sun light the dunes with varying shades of pink and red. Just magnificent!

068 Kata Juta moonrise and sunset


Welcome to the garden.

Welcome to the garden.

If you love gardens it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the local Open Gardens events   when you travel – they’re a great Opportunity to see new and different garden designs as well as plants you may not be familiar with.

The 2013 season Open Gardens NT commenced last weekend and we have a feast of Top End gardens to choose from throughout the Dry. It’s one of our favourite weekend activities to visit a garden and have a coffee and cake while soaking up the ambience. You can see my stories and photos from 2012 through this link.

Why visit: To see a unique natural wonder of Australia and the amazing colours, vegetation and animals of the Outback.

FYI: There 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


On the turps: big drinking session

Old mate: A NT special gradually soaking into the vernacular elsewhere. A generic expression meaning, roughly, bloke, someone you don’t know. So old mate drove his (Land) Cruiser through the creek….

Outback: Australia’s vast interior. The iconic idea of Australia often completely unfamiliar to its many coastal dwellers. The people are typically unemotional and physically tough and laconic.

Ordinary: not the usual meaning of “normal” but also in the Aussie sense can mean sub-par, inferior, not much good. How’re ya going mate? Feeling a bit ordinary today…

I wonder where the letter P will take us tomorrow? How about back into the Kimberley?

M is for Mindil and to market, to market

a-to-z-letters-mM is for MARKETS: MINDIL BEACH and PARAP

I don’t know about you but I love visiting markets when I’m travelling though I can’t say  buying a fat pig is a prime objective. Without a doubt the markets in the Top End are one of its major tourist attractions. Not that this is the exclusive province of the Territory, or indeed to the Darwin area, as you’ll find wonderful markets in the north of Queensland as well as in Broome in Western Australia.

However Darwin’s varied markets are certainly full of fun and a great passion of the local foodies as well as the tourists. Being so close to Asia, the culinary influences are very evident and there are times you might even think you’ve been transported (ha ha, Aussie convict joke).

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Mindil Beach is the most popular of the tourist markets even though it’s only on during the Dry Season months, usually commencing on the Thursday evening closest to Anzac Day, 25th April. It can be a veritable Babel with chatter in innumerable languages and almost as many food choices as well.DSC_0603

My own preference is for Parap Markets so all the photos are from there but you’ll see most of the same stalls at both places. Somewhere I have photos of Mindil, but where, that is the question.

Food is the dominant attraction and it’s a cheap place to have a night out with friends (BYO chair, wine etc) and you get another of those Darwin sunsets thrown in for good measure. The glitter of flashbulbs is enough to make you think the paparazzi have hit town. What would you like to eat? From Cambodian dishes to Dutch poffertjes, Thai temptations, Japanese Ramen or Vietnamese snacks, you won’t be disappointed.DSC_1015

Do as the locals do and match your meal or snack with a delicious tropical fruit smoothie…how about mango, pineapple and lime? The young ladies on the smoothie stalls run non-stop for the whole time the markets are on and if you could bottle their serving and order skills Darwin wouldn’t have the dubious reputation it often has for restaurant wait-staff.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink...always popular.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink…always popular.

And since it’s tourist central during the Dry there’s also lots of local crafts like fragrant frangipani soap or crocodile skin belts not to mention the whip-cracker who delights the audiences, or the jewellery and sarong stalls.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

There’s inevitably a didgeridoo player to give some local atmosphere. No wonder people enjoy themselves. You may even find some quality Aboriginal craft like the baskets and weavings (below), which I photographed last Saturday with permission. Not inexpensive but there’s a lot of work in these.DSC_0575

The local Parap Markets on Saturday mornings are my favourite, hands down, a manageable size and not so touristy or crowded. Are you after breakfast, brunch, or lunch? You can pick up a samosa, a sushi, laksa, stir-fries or satays on sticks cooked over coals, and those fruit smoothies.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Grab a bunch of beautiful tropical flower for a pittance to liven up your hotel room if you’re here for a few days. Do as the locals do and have a crepe delight from Ken’s Crepes.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Shop around the many little local craft stalls…lots of souvenirs to be found and you’ll probably find that perfect gift for someone at home, or even for yourself. If you’re staying somewhere self-contained you may even want to buy some tropical fruit and Asian vegetables so you can cook up a storm.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They're here in abundance.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They’re here in abundance.

While you’re at Parap, wander round to Parap Fine Foods, Darwin’s iconic deli with delicious treats in store. 

Love the colours!

Love the colours!

Rapid Creek markets on Sunday mornings are a great place to check out the diversity of Asian fruit and vegetables especially if you’re unfamiliar with them. Don’t forget to take the camera and get some photos while you’re there.



Why visit: to mix it with the locals, get a great feed at a great price, see the sunset (Mindil) and just plain have fun!

I was tempted to venture down the track to Mataranka or further still to the McDonnell Ranges, for the letter M but I thought you might find the markets more fun.

FYI: There 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.


 Mickey Mouse: Unlike the American version (as I understand it), this is rhyming slang for “grouse” and so means something is great, rather than that it’s cheap and rubbishy.

Mad as a cut snake: truly cranky and annoyed.

Mongrel: a nasty unpleasant person ( a worse insult than “bastard” I reckon)

Mate: the ubiquitous Aussie greeting for another person. Increasingly in recent years it includes women. It’s also the ultimate compliment defining a friendship of great loyalty. “G’day mate, how’re you goin’?“  or “He’s my best mate” or “you’ve got to stick by your mates”.

Misery guts: an unhappy, often whingeing person

Magpie: someone who collects bits and pieces (alternatively “bower bird” might be used, both after two Australian birds).

 Mate’s rates: either an official or unofficial price for a friend or perhaps even a local resident.

 Mozzie: aka a mosquito –definitely a word you need in the northern, tropical half of Australia.

 Matilda: a swag, as used by a swaggie (itinerant person looking for work) rather than the modern day camping version. Famously in our unofficial anthem Waltzing Matilda, there are variants depending on which state you come from, but since it started in Queensland I reckon that version has precedence.

Tomorrow’s excursion will take us over to the blue waters off the west coast of Australia…where is it?