Seen around Canberra

Having shared some images of flowers and flora in Canberra for last Friday’s Flowers and in the upcoming one, I thought I might include some photos I took around town. In an oops moment this post was supposed to have been scheduled for 17 April but I got it wrong. IMG_0798

The Aboriginal tent embassy has been a feature of the laws in front of Old Parliament house for years. Hard to imagine other countries tolerating it, irrespective of the merits of the case.

The Aboriginal tent embassy has been a feature of the laws in front of Old Parliament house for years. Hard to imagine other countries tolerating it, irrespective of the merits of the case.

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The view from Old Parliament House looks towards the Australian War Memorial – a reminder of the cost to Australia of its participation in wars.

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Simpson and his donkey rescuing the injured at Gallipoli is part of our iconic historiography.

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And in reverse, looking towards Parliament from the War Memorial.

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A “jolly jumbuck” (sheep) reclining in a squatter’s chair…but why?

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A morning balloon flight over Lake Burley Griffin would be fun I think. The building on the right is the National Library of Australia…a researcher’s heaven.

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Into Africa

11 elephants and plains_edited-1Skywards in September

Australia to Arabia and Zanzibar

Wandering like Joseph

Under African skies[i]

Animals from Antelopes to Zebras

Roam their own vast spaces

As nature intended

And not in a zoo

How can a giraffe

So very tall

Disappear from view

A mother lion and cubs

Ignore the circling safari

A lick, a snarl, a swaggering few

The leopard with in-filled spots

Ignores the enclosing traffic jam

Yet jumps skittishly at a twig

Thousands of Wildebeest

Migrate like ants down the hill

To cross the river en masse

A Samburu in pastels and beads

Shares the knowledge of years

With his curious visitors

Maasai in red, hiss and

Leap before the fire

Bring the watchers to the dance

Narrow Stonetown lanes

Ancients houses, carved wooden doors

Intrigue yet exclude the visitor

New days, new language and experiences

Jambo, Sopa

Asanti sana, Karibu

Lala salama[ii]

These songs of Africa stay with us

Though our passing presence

Goes unnoticed into Africa


[i] Reference to Paul Simon’s Graceland album and the song,

[ii] Jambo (hello in Kiswahili), Sopa (hello in Maa), Asanti sana (thank you very much) always followed by Karibu (you’re welcome). Security guards wish you lala salama (sleep well)…a greeting that can’t be returned, for safety’s sake.

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.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

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!

D is for dallying in Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles

a-to-z-letters-dToday we’re going to head off down the Stuart Highway, the road that bisects the Northern Territory, north to south. You’ll hear about it a bit more later in the series, but suffice to say the distances are vast. Although there’s a tendency to have one’s motoring head down and notch up the kilometres, there are a couple of breaks worth taking along the way.

DALY WATERS

Around the 600km mark you can take a short right hand detour to Daly Waters. The historic Daly Waters pub is the sort you see in old movies of Australia….timber with a metal roof to flex in the heat and bougainvillea growing up to the roof. Inside, like every bush bar in the Territory, you’ll find quirky displays: in some it’s number plates, in one it’s cop’s badges, others have hats, caps or buffalo horns not to mention undies or foreign currency notes, and some like the Daly Waters pub include all of them!  There’s a great website hosted by the pub so I suggest you go for a short journey over there. I was very interested to learn of the role of the Daly Waters airstrip in early international flying from Australia to the UK.

Bush Pub Daly Waters

Fans of Bill Bryson’s books may have already encountered today’s D places in his book Down Under. Chapters 15 and 16 nicely account for Darwin, Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles. I love Bryson’s irreverent sense of humour and his search for a hotel in Darwin was truly (and aptly) hilarious, as is his story of an evening spent boozing in the Daly Waters pub.

If walls could indeed talk then the pub’s bar would have amazing stories to tell of travellers and tourists, soldiers and drovers. Standing at the entry to the treacherous Murranji Track, one of the fierce cross-country droving tracks, there’d have been many hard-bitten drinkers knock “a few” back at the bar before setting forth (always assuming the boss drover let them near the pub I suppose). Ted Egan, former Administrator of the Territory and a bush balladeer sings a song called “Old Paraway” which talks of these hardy cattle men.

Why visit: To get a taste of outback life, see a quirky pub and have a cold drink.

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.

A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.

A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.

DEVIL’S MARBLES

If you don’t have your mind set on getting to Queensland, you might choose to have a stop-over in the Three Ways or Tennant Creek and from there visit the Devil’s Marbles, now known as Karlu Karlu National Park. I think it’s the contrast between the ochre of the rocks against a clear blue Territory sky that impresses visitors but for Indigenous people it has a broader meaning over centuries of journeying.

From the Devil’s Marbles you’re a mere “stone’s throw” to Alice Springs with under 400kms to drive.

Why Visit: To see a natural wonder.

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.

Devil's Marbles© Pauleen Cass 1994

Devil’s Marbles
© Pauleen Cass 1994

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

First horse out of the gate today just has to be drover given their importance to this country.

Drover: a person (previously mostly men) who moves big mobs of cattle across vast areas of land either to take up new settlement or to take the mob to the saleyards. Other places may call them cowboys but we don’t!! You can read about them more here. These days the drover is a dying profession as road trains transport live cattle to export.

Dunny: toilet, particularly an outdoor long-drop toilet complete with spiders. These used to be in back yards prior to the installation of sewerage systems. Old Aussie “curse”….”May your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down!”

Dump: a multi-purpose word. A house might be a “dump” (not worth living in), a teenager’s bedroom might be a dump (stuff flung everywhere) or you might “dump on” someone (mock or mildly insult them or give them too much to do). For example, the teenager cleared up his dump of a bedroom then dumped all his clothes on mum to have them washed.

Desert pee: our family’s name for a facilities-free toilet break. When you do all these bush drives, there’s not always a toilet around when you need one, especially if you’ve been drinking lots of coffee to stay alert. Named after the flower Desert Pea.

Done like a dog’s dinner: Completely destroyed/ demolished or wiped out. Or perhaps just taken out of action by someone else’s behaviour.

 Drongo*: a stupid or silly person. While judgemental it’s not meant as a particularly nasty insult, rather in a “you’re hopeless” tone.

 Dinkum: True Blue/Ridgey Didge or Fair Dinkum all mean much the same thing: a person who is the genuine article and reliable. Sometimes used as a patriotic term.

 Dead as a dodo: the issue is finished, there’s no hope for it to be resuscitated in the future eg a person’s plans.

Tomorrow we’re back in Darwin, looking at some of its historic military history and a relaxing spot for a barbie.

2013 A to Z Challenge: Travels through Australia’s north

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9 (1)It’s only a couple of days until 1 April when this year’s A to Z challenge commences. It takes determination to persist with the 26 posts, not to mention visit others who are blogging along with us.

As I’m something of a travel obsessive, the 2013 series will  have a travel theme, but this year I hope to introduce you to places you may not know, or even have heard about: Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) with skirmishes across into the top half of Western Australia (WA) as well. All the places will be ones I’ve visited and I’ll be including at least one photo of each place.

Like many places, Australia has its own language peculiarities so you’ll need to take along a little knowledge of our colloquialisms, which I’m going to call Aussie-isms. Each day I’ll give you a few catchy words or phrases that are needed if you’re not to be bewildered when you visit.

Map for A to Z

There are some distinguishing features common to the places I’ll be talking about and which differ from the rest of Australia:

CLIMATE

Most of the time in the Top End (the top half on the NT and WA), it is HOT. Unlike other places we have two seasons, the Wet (December to March/April approx) and the Dry (April/May to August). Actually we have three seasons, though we try to ignore the September to December zone, as that’s the Build Up, sometimes known as Mango Madness because (i) that’s when the mangoes flourish and fruit and (ii) people go nuts because of the heat and humidity.

The humidity is the key difference between the two main seasons and temperatures which may look similar based on numbers can be very different on the ground.

And when we say, Wet, we do mean wet: cyclones, monsoons, and lots and lots of rain. Roads flood and become impassable and many tourist sites are inaccessible because of this and also the even higher risk of crocodiles. Lightning is a feature of the Wet as are monster storms with crashing thunder.

An aerial view over Darwin c2001. A Wet Season storm is brewing.

An aerial view over Darwin c2001. A Wet Season storm is brewing.

Dry means just that: brides-to-be can plan their outdoor wedding months in advance in the almost certain knowledge there’ll be no rain. We can go for months without a drop of rain.

Our temperatures are in Celsius which won’t be familiar to some people so here are some clues: 35C=95F;  20C=68F (and sees people reaching for Ugg boats and jumpers!) 0C=32F.

 DISTANCES

There’s an awful lot of wide open space out there and it’s a “long way between drinks” once you head out of Darwin. To reach two other capital cities, Brisbane and Adelaide, it is approximately the same distance as London to St Petersburg or San Francisco to Missouri.

Another factor of the distance is that Bali and Singapore are closer than, or as close as, other major cities in Australia, making them regular holiday destinations. As a result the Top End has a very Asian flavour.

Darwin area close

NATURAL HAZARDS

Australia has a bad reputation for having a lot of things that can kill you. Unfortunately they’re a less obvious than brown bears, for example. The northern half of the country is especially prone to hazardous wildlife: crocodiles and stingers outweigh the fear of sharks in the water so that few people swim in those beautiful blue waters; underwater there are  poisonous shells, deadly stonefish, particular tropical fish and sea-snakes not to mention lethal snakes, spiders and scorpions on land. Oh, sorry, that’s right I’m trying to encourage you to come visit our wide brown land!

On the other hand we have wide skies, vivid colours, stars dense in the sky and some pretty quirky mammals.

I do hope you enjoy your excursions into Australia’s far north and Red Centre. Thanks for joining me!

My A to Z series for 2012 was about the important places to my family history, both historic and recent. The 2012 series was on my family history blog, Family History Across the Seas. If you’re interested in reading any of the stories (V was very popular), you can find them through this link.