NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!


Red's Round-the-World EXTRAVAGANZA! #1

What could possibly be as good as actually travelling in OZ? Welll … virtual OZ travel via my blog must be NEARLY as good! But sometimes I wonder if my little blog needs to expand. Is there more to life than OZ??

So I started thinking (and, as the unkind would say, thereby breaking the habit of a lifetime). How could I give my readers a break from OZ without losing the integrity of my Aussie travel blog? And how could I possibly top travelling in Australia??

Too easy! With a virtual trip around the world, of course!

So I've devised a devilishly simple plan (that means minimal effort from me!!). Here's how it works!

There are MANY great blogs with posts about travel related stuff. Like what?
  • Travel destinations 
  • Attractions 
  • Experiences 
  • Accomodation 
  • Scenery 
  • Flora and Fauna
  • Photos 
  • Holiday Spots 
  • Hints and Tips for travellers
  • your local area

 And no, they're not all travel blogs either! Nearly every blog I've read has a post about the bloggers home area or favourite holiday destination or weekend getaway. Nearly every blog I've read has a great photo SOMEWHERE that makes me wonder what it'd be like to visit that spot. And nearly every blog sooner or later describes a great local attraction or experience. 

And while it might not be exotic to you – it probably WILL be to most everyone else!

Maybe one of those blogs is yours! And maybe, just MAYBE you'd like to showcase your great post about any of this stuff!!

Well, join Red's Round-the-World extravaganza with a post from YOUR blog, then sit back and enjoy the virtual tour!!

Who knows?  If you don't want an Australian adventure or a luxury break, maybe you'll find
cheap holidays to Goa more to your taste!  I'm sure you'll discover a whole new world by taking the links below ...

Too exciting, isn't it?? Here's how to play!!

  1. Pick ONE POST that showcases something travel related from your blog 
  2. Submit details in the linky below with
    a) a short description putting the COUNTRY first (eg OZ – UFO Capital of the World)
    b) a link to the POST* (eg
  3. Put my Button somewhere in your post/blog (you'll need to add a new HTML/Javascript gadget to your blog, then cut & paste code from under the 'round the world' button under 'about me' at left)
  4. Comment me – is this experiment worth continuing? 
  5. Spread the word - follow me OR tweet it OR email the link OR facebook it!  
  6. Spread the love – visit as many other participants as you can. Follow/leave comments as you wish!!  
  7. ENJOY!!

Email Subscribers – I have no idea how this will display in the email. In fact, I have no idea how it will even work!! But join in by clicking the link to my blog post and check out the entries for yourself!

*To get the URL for a specific post, open it and right click on the title. Select 'Copy Shortcut' and paste into the URL field

  1. OZ: Dont Miss This! Daintree Dawn Cruise RedNomad
  2. Greece: Sailing through the islands
  3. Chick Chat at the Super Pit
  4. Island Vacations
  5. Scottish Girl in Zurich
  6. 10 Days top of South Is NZ prior to Feb Earthquake
  7. Oz, Melbourne, Yarra River Trail trek
  8. Philippines--Timeless Memories of El Nido
  9. Fundy National Park, New Brunswick, Canada
  10. Canada: A Day in Prince George, British Columbia
  11. Song of the Tui - Kapiti Coast NZ
  12. Typhoon Katrina stikes - 4 days trapped in Hoi An
  1. Italian 101
  2. Sicilian Seduction, Part 1: Luigi and Me
  3. Australia, Tasmania, Cruising the Gordon River
  4. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
  5. Dubai - walking past the shops and into culture
  6. Oz. Adelaide a day trip to Hahndorf.
  7. Indonesia - Kotagede. . . feel the past
  8. Top 6 Resources for Cheap or Free Travel
  9. Long Distance Runners of the Barranias in Mexico
  10. Snow Monkeys @ Jigokudani Monkey Park (Nagano, JP)
  11. A Digg reserved for Travel Bloggers!
  12. This linky list is now closed. What is a blog hop? Get the code here...


Off the Tourist Trail #5 - Mandorah, via Darwin, Northern Territory

Yes, we'd crossed the portal into a parallel universe. But at least it was Tropical-Paradise-Cliché universe! Balmy breezes wafted through the open walls of the pub where we kicked back, drinks in hand, admiring the endless white sands, tropical palms, blue water and skies. Bob Marley played in the background. 'Best in the world' (albeit self-nominated) barra* and chips** on the way.

So what was wrong with this picture? Well, nothing – as a point-in-time snapshot, BUT ...
1. We weren't staying in the nearby accomodation
2. We'd miss the evening entertainment
3. In a couple of hours we'd be on the ferry back to Darwin, SO …
4. we only had time for one more drink!!

And if that wasn't enough to throw us into a raging depression, the next morning our June 08 Top End odyssey was over as we began the long drive south.

Yep, it was all downhill from here.
Apart from that, OK!! Actually, MORE than OK as the barra & chips arrived and we put our troubles aside to treat this great meal with the respect it deserved. Either that, or the Bob Marley had blissed us into a trance ...

As we cursed the lack of foresight that stopped us staying for at least ONE night at lovely Mandorah across the harbour from Darwin, we vowed to one day stay longer in this idyllic spot.

It's a 130km drive from Darwin to Mandorah – at the time apparently on roads the polite would describe as 'indifferent'. But it was all hearsay to us – we took the easy option! For a modest levy of around $23 per adult return, the 7km, 20 minute Sea-Cat ferry ride from Cullen Bay Marina across the harbour is your portal to paradise! That's if you can ignore the perils lurking beneath the water's sparkling blue innocence – signs at various strategic points around the harbour warn of crocodiles, sharks, stingers and stingrays. And you don't see any of the locals taking a dip …

From the wharf or pub, there's no sign of the Wagait Beach suburb where a few hundred locals live - while it's close by, we were too busy with our barra and chips to take the walk.  There IS a sign of what some locals do, however, with jetty fishing and boat launching aplenty visible from our vantage point. 

Back down the Cox peninsula road are World War II sites, creeks, more beaches and wetlands - but taking the easy ferry option, as we did, means they're out of reach for a day trip with no transport.  BUT ... put all the parts of Mandorah together and they make a perfect recipe for an idyllic few days!!

So one day we'll head off the tourist trail once more to fully explore the delights of Mandorah. But just like famous OZ poet AB 'Banjo' Paterson and his vision of Clancy***, the visions of that paradise sustain me through times of trouble and despair, while the promise of travels to come keeps me sane …

* Barra = Barramundi, tropical fish extraordinaire, and ultimate aim of most northern OZ fishing adventures!
** Chips, NOT fries!!
*** Non-Australians may well require a translation to fully appreciate the nuances of this OZ gem!


Aussie Icons #2 - Cooper's Creek

Studded with campfires in the late evening dusk, the creek banks were alive with the sounds of trucks thundering across the bridge, beer cans popping and that combination of braggadocio, loud laughter and hi-jinks peculiar to any random group of three Aussie males on a boy's own adventure.

Yes, Cooper's Creek earned its Aussie-rite-of-passage status in the June 2009 week Pilchard and I camped on its banks!

You couldn't swing a fishing line and sinker without hitting a major league 4WD, loaded to the gunwales with tinnie*, camping gear and several loaded eskies**. Most contained a group of three – ALWAYS three! - males, albeit in random combinations. Father + two sons. Father + son + son's best mate. Three best mates. Two brothers + one best mate. Two best mates + one son. Why? WHY??

One of life's great mysteries ... but I DO know you couldn't take a pee ANYWHERE in the bush without hitting a beer can!! And their presence put a serious dampener on any plans I had to use the solar shower – at least without a shelter from the beer goggles!!!

The only place in Australia – actually, the world – where two rivers, the Thomson (at left) and Barcoo (below) meet to form a creek, Cooper's Creek is a unique Australian icon. With massive river redgums (find the human in the photo below!) lining the banks, scores of water birds, surrounding floodplain and remoteness, it epitomises the outback like nothing else – a truly Australian river  system.
Viewed from the air, Cooper's Creek, and the surrounding 'Channel Country' is a network of often dry channels flowing from Queensland's southwest corner into South Australia before reaching Lake Eyre, lowest point in Australia, and depending on weather conditions, its largest salt pan - or largest inland sea! And as shown during recent Australian floods, riverbanks are neither here nor there to a breaking drought.

As Cooper's Creek virgins, our first thrilling sighting on a detour between Thargomindah and Quilpie came complete with a 4WD/tinnie/esky/3 mates combo. But the Cooper's Creek magic came a couple of weeks later, camped on its banks near Windorah. Where else could a modest $10.50 investment in a box of African Nightcrawlers yield 5 different types of fish?! And we weren't even really serious fisherfolk ...

While map naming conventions have changed the name to 'Cooper Creek' – that's just plain wrong! When he discovered it in a dry year, misguided explorer Charles Sturt named it 'Cooper's' after Charles Cooper (then SA Chief Justice) and 'Creek' because he didn't think anything that small was actually a river!

Later, Australian novelist Alan Moorehead's work about the Burke and Wills expedition made Cooper's Creek (spelled just like that!) part of the OZ psyche. So why call the creek something other than a) what it was first called, and b) what it's known as?? After some years with the 'correct' name – Cooper Creek – Windorah locals changed the signpost back, a decision with which I concur. Although - and this will come as a surprise, no doubt - the locals may well find what I think to be irrelevant ...
SO have a bet each way and call it 'the Cooper'!! But miss this iconic Aussie landmark, and miss what makes Australia unique!!

*Tinnie = Australian coloquialism for a metal boat (ie 'tin can' derivative)
** Esky = portable cold storage unit used as an outdoor fridge (most commonly to keep drinks cold)


Signs #11 - What's the Problem?

What do overseas visitors make of Australia's more esoteric pictorial instructions? Space constraints mean non-English wording is often limited – or non-existent! So the sign designer is stuck with conveying important, but sometimes obscure facts and instructions with stick figures.

Their success necessarily relies on reader ability to immediately interpret the pictures correctly and heed their warnings and messages without the benefit of English comprehension.

It's an interesting exercise to test the clarity of the more cryptic drawings by ignoring the accompanying text – and any other linguistic clues – while trying to work out what they mean. And the result isn't always what the signmaker intended!!

So ... it was a relief that at least THIS sign at the Kanyaka Ruins Woolshed gave four VERY clear pictorial messages! 

And these are, as I'm sure you'll agree, from left to right:
  1. Perform your headstands in the space between buildings
  2. The bollards are floodlit to prevent you bumping into them
  3. The wall is as good a protection as any from errant seaspray
  4. Way-station for endurance ice skating/skiing
Or maybe not??

If my interpretation is wrong, it's a testament to the perils of either monolingualism, or weathering – or both! But if I'm right? Well … the South Australian State Government need fear no reprisals from accident, injury or death arising from failure to heed the warnings!!

So what do YOU think the sign means??


7 Days ... on the Southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

South Australia's Southern Yorke Peninsula (SYP - click HERE for the map) can get pretty tedious – day after ho-hum day of blue skies, mile after punishing mile of spectacular coastal scenery, more and yet more (almost) deserted beaches. Seal and dolphin watching, fishing, museums, shipwrecks, snorkelling, surfing, wildflowers, markets and country shows. A well preserved, documented – AND fascinating history. And it all comes with arguably the highest concentrations of bakeries AND scenic public toilets (SPTs) in the country.

Yep, there's only so much of that you can take.

So I've limited this to 7 days. 7 arduous days – NOT for the faint hearted! These pleasures can be exhausting – so unless your stamina is unusually robust, it must be fortified often with the region's gastronomic pleasures ...

SO … where to stay? While you can't toss a salmon without hitting an SYP caravan park, for my money (and to mix my metaphors), the Coobowie Caravan Park is an unsung gem – and central to most activities. Besides, it's a surreal pleasure to be assailed by County AND Western hits* when visiting the amenities in the otherwise quiet dead of night! My favourite? The chorus - 'He drank tequila, and she talked dirty in Spanish' – stays with me still!!!

Day 1 – Edithburgh (and maybe Yorketown) – Bakery AND SPT alert!

Walk from Coobowie if you're up for a 5km magnificent-coastal-scenery hit – or take the car for a Bakery hit at nearby Yorketown, with vanilla slices so huge the staff give 'how-to-eat' instructions. These are wasted on Pilchard – his talent for turning one into something resembling a plate of fresh roadkill remains unparalleled. And me? I'm sure the fresh cream honey stick will figure prominently in my last meal ... But I digress!!

If you walk, the path winds through the clifftop golf course, past the tidal swimming pool (SPT alert #1) and jetty (SPT alert #2) before reaching Edithburgh itself where a range of options await.

Eat at the excellent Location Cafe, either of the two pubs, the Garage Diner or the General Store; Spot the teddy bears in the trees while strolling through the Native Flora park, bigger in area than the Adelaide Botanic Gardens; visit the terrific historical museum and Bakehouse craft shop; wander the streets for the op shop and craft/gift store; swim or snorkel at the pool, fish from the jetty or play a round of golf.

For the masochistic, or those who haven't yet tired of the magnificent coastal scenery, follow the path another 3km to Sultana Point (SPT alert #3) – the heel on the foot of the leg!!

Day 2 – Coastal Drive to Port Moorowie (SPT Alert)
If not for the dirt roads, courtesy of the current State Government's focus on urban votes at the expense of rural SA, I'd claim the coastal drive from Edithburgh to Port Moorowie as one of Australia's best. Arguably, the dirt roads actually add to the charm – as the world-class magnificent coastal scenery and deserted beaches are all the more unexpected from the many lookout points.

Past the Wattle Point Wind Farm, the goat track road hugs the coast so closely that the sea spray will wet you in rough weather! When they're not breeding across the strait at Kangaroo Island – seals frolic below the Troubridge Hill Lighthouse, constructed of purpose-made clay bricks. And on a clear day? The view is stupendous!

From the access stairway to Swimmers Beach – hard to believe it was once covered in stones – look for the telltale schools of salmon masquerading as giant clumps of seaweed. Looks good enough for a swim, doesn't it? That's what I thought until the day we spotted a shark cruising quite close to shore heading towards the salmon … And the day Pilchard and I weathered a storm that nearly blew the car off the cliff? Well, let's just say flat tyres come at the most inopportune moments!

If you're there when the mullet run is on, you probably won't get any further. And the beach certainly won't be deserted! If you've got the bait the mullet are after that day, you'll leave the other fisher-people in your wake!

Once you tire of the views, the beaches, the clear blue sea and sky, retreat to the Ballywire Farm Licensed CafĂ© – the menu specialises in home grown ingredients.

And after lunch? WELL … dare I suggest the Port Moorowie clifftop walk? It's a 3km (one way) corker, stretching from west of the town at Point Gilbert, along the clifftop and through to McEacherns beach. Whoops, yes, more magnificent coastal scenery, another mostly deserted beach! Just return the way you came if you can't cope …

If you CAN cope, the nearby Mozzie Flat campground has yet more of what you'd expect. Knock yourself out! But be warned – 'mozzie' is an Australian euphemism for 'mosquito'!

Day 3 – Minlaton & the Other Side (Bakery Alert)
At its narrowest point, the SYP is a mere 33km across, so while a trip to the other side necessarily leaves the coast, the absence of magnificent coastal scenery/deserted beach combo is momentary.

Unless, of course, you break your journey at Minlaton, home to the 'Red Devil' (watch for a future post), museum, a fine bakery and the excellent 'Harvest Corner' Visitor Information Centre, with the Brentwood cemetery just down the road.

But … given the total magnificent coastal scenery overload of the last 2 days, those experiencing withdrawal symptoms should continue to Port Rickaby for a fix. And while you're there, enhance those views from the top of the sand dune – if my 81 year old mother-in-law can climb it, then so can you!!

Day 4 – Innes National Park (Scenic Public Toilet alert)
Sound familiar? Regular readers will recall the amazing wonders of this OZ Top Spot – but click HERE for a refresher just in case ...

Day 5 – Corny Point and Western Beaches (Scenic Public Toilet alert)

Yeah, continue up the western side of the 'leg' for more of the same old, same old. Another day, another series of wild, windswept beaches with magnificent coastal scenery, great surfing and fishing. What can I say? Yes, it's exhausting documenting such tedium... but I'm willing to sacrifice myself so others don't have to suffer!!

Besides, you don't see emus on the beach and galahs nesting in the cliffs too many other places, do you?!

Day 6 – Stansbury (Scenic Public Toilet alert)
Sadly, the Stansbury Seaside Markets are – well, naturally – right on the beach. So even though you're shopping, you just can't escape the magnificent coastal scenery/deserted beach combo. Sorry.

Day 7 – Troubridge Island
Readers may also recall the fabulous Troubridge Island, 6km offshore from Edithburgh, from a previous post! There's a minimum 2 night stay so sneak in another day, especially if you have unfulfilled fantasies involving lighthouses AND being serenaded by thousands of penguins ...

As you head back to the real world after this little taste of paradise, treat yourself to another of life's great pleasures and drop in to the Ardrossan Bakery. You won't regret it!!

I've given up trying to write a definitive post on the SYP – there's just too much to see and do!!  SO ... be prepared for even more posts in the future, because I'll definitely be back! So when was the last time I visited? Well … counting today, 3 days ago! Jealous?? You should be!!

*Don't be disappointed if this no longer happens – 'Shack Attack' means it's a few years since we've stayed at the Coobowie Caravan Park.


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #11 - Stansbury, Yorke Peninsula, SA

Australia's beaches don't all look like the pre-tropical-cyclone-Yasi* paradisical wet dream of white sand, palms and crystal clear water! While this may fill some reader's hearts with dismay, there's no way the southern beaches, especially those of South Australia's Yorke Peninsula, could be mistaken for their northern counterparts!

But this isn't necessarily a bad thing - Stansbury's stretch of beach along Oyster Bay (there's no mystery why it's called that!) is a superb example of that other kind of paradise where warnings against crocodiles, marine stingers or falling coconuts are not required! Nor are you likely to encounter an errant Bufo marinus (aka cane toad!) – for the moment, anyway!

And generally, where there's a magnificent beach there's – yes, you guessed right! - a public loo with a magnificent view!

This one looks clear down to the Foreshore Caravan Park, those absolute beach front sites snaffled by Grey Nomads out of peak holiday season and school holidaymakers in. And who can blame them? That southern delicacy, the Blue Swimmer crab, is there for the taking – if the name of the month contains the letter 'r'!!

The northern panorama up the coast beyond the jetty ensures this is one of Australia's more expansive public amenity views – yet another great reason for a 'business' stop?!

But, on Stansbury Seaside market days, held during the warmer months, the view changes! Whether for better or worse depends on whether you love or loathe markets as the empty foreshore fills with stalls – and visitors from all over the peninsula.

In the cooler months – I won't amuse northerners by referring to it as 'winter' – the view is unsullied by commercial enterprise! Despite the absence of anything but the Great Southern Ocean between the southern Yorke Peninsula and Antarctica, extreme cold – let alone snow – is virtually unknown there.

And what better spot to do your business than here, where a winter's day can look something like this...

*Tropical cyclone Yasi ravaged Australia's north-east coast in early February.  Bigger than Katrina, the cyclone left a trail of destruction extending into Queensland's outback, and bringing unseasonal heavy rain to central and southern Australia.


OZ Top Spot #6 - Starlight's Lookout, Longreach, Queensland

Puffing and panting, we haul ourselves up the rocky path, our feet sliding on the dusty gravel. Another few metres and we reach the base of the rocky outcrop at the summit. We peer through the gap.

We've climbed Starlight's lookout – a mound rising high above the surrounding plain – and the view stretches for miles and miles and miles in every direction. As we watch, a clutch of quad bikes emerges from the paddocks to the west, circles the lookout and disappears to the east.

Yes, I've mixed my metric and imperial measurements, but 'kilometres and kilometres' doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?!?! Nor does it evoke that SO appropriate song*, the chorus from which you're probably humming ... And 'Cassidy's Knob', the real name of this rocky outcrop just north of Queensland's Longreach doesn't really work either.

Not when it's also known as 'Starlight's Lookout', after the famous character from Rolf Boldrewood's classic novel of colonial Australia, 'Robbery Under Arms'!  And 'Rolf Boldrewood', a pseudonym, sounds a LOT more exotic than the author's real name, Thomas Alexander Browne ... but I digress!

Boldrewood drew his composite character, 'Captain Starlight', from several regional bushrangers – AND local identity Harry Readford. But Harry wasn't a bushranger – he was a cattle duffer, albeit notorious in his field! So why were aspects of Harry's persona considered essential to Captain Starlight, essentially a highwayman?

Well, way back in 1870, Harry's bold and outrageous – but ultimately successful – scheme to drove 1000 stolen cattle via Cooper's Creek and the Strezlecki track down to South Australia, is now legendary.

Despite a distinctive white bull he'd sold en route being returned as evidence at his subsequent trial for cattle theft, Harry was acquitted! The fate of his accomplices remains a mystery.

And the lookout connection? Legend has it that Harry and his companions kept watch from here while 'gathering' (yes, that's a euphemism!) the herd from nearby Bowen Downs station prior to setting out on their daring journey!!

And as a vantage point, it's got everything – 360° views, hiding places, escape routes. As we drive away, a local farmer stops his ute to ask us if we've seen the quad bikes.

'I'd climb up to look for them myself, but I'm over 70,' he states. 'I'd rather save my energy!' We tell him which way the bikes went, and he heads out across the plain after them.

Not quite the real Captain Starlight, but we can pretend …

*'I can see for miles …' - The Who


Weird Stuff #3 - Quorn, South Australia

Desperately seeking sewage ponds (as one does!), we whizzed down a dirt road behind Quorn, in South Australia's mid-North, only just keeping ahead of the clouds of dust we were generating.

And the squalor of the sewage pond? Does that quantify Quorn's quintessence?? Of course not! Our quest will be no surprise to quantities of inquisitive birdwatchers who regularly add to their quota while lurking near what is often the only wetland for miles. Or kilometres! But I digress …

As our quest took us deeper into the quiet countryside, a not-quite-right shape silhouetted against the October-blue sky (that's the SA spring weather for you! Or at least it was in Quorn, 2010) intruded into my consciousness.

'Stop the car!' I squawked without a qualm, an instruction with which Pilchard acquiesced, thinking (quite incorrectly) that I'd spotted a new/rare/unusual bird – like a quail with a thirst to quench...

No bird, but this bearded dragon quiescent amongst the quandongs (actually, that's a bit of alliterative license, it was more like a thornbush), a couple of metres (6') above the ground taking the sun and Quorn country air. Sadly, his pitch about to be queered by the clouds of dust about to catch up, as we quashed the quest for our previous quarry to take this shot!!

And was I qualified to quarrel with Pilchard's suggestion we quit our quest and return to Quorn to quaff a Quornish pastie?? Of quorse not!!

HHHMMMmmm... maybe I'd better quit while I'm ahead!!


Happy B-Day to ME!!!

No, NOT my birthday – my blogoversary!! And because this probably isn't why you read my blog, I'll keep it short.

Well, kind of. It's not for nothing that I've been known as Red Nomad 'too much information' OZ … but you can judge for yourself if that's a fair description or a cruel and evil misnomer!!
I can't believe I only discovered blogging a year ago! Why didn't anyone tell me before about this medium where you can express your creativity; research, present and promote your topic (no matter how bizarre or obscure); and draw an international audience to read and comment on it? And where else can you challenge your intellect, imagination and inventiveness so profoundly - for FREE?! Yep, I've only spent money I would have spent anyway on my blog (ie internet, photo processing) – can you tell?? HHHMMMmmm... maybe best not answer that ...

Followers from my first post - 'Red Nomad OZ is GO!' - may have noticed changes over the year (eg name, post frequency, style and length etc), but perhaps less noticeable is my plan for world domination! Well … in my field in the blogosphere, anyway!!

And how will I be able to do this? By the lessons I've learned from other bloggers!! ('Learning curves' are for wankers!!)

SO … today it's payback time! In no particular order ...

Lesson #1: Look after your followers OR 'your visit is important to me'!
Mary of the awesome 'One Perfect Bite' recipe blog reinforced this by visiting my blog after I'd become a follower of hers. While Mary has more followers than flies in the outback, she took the time to visit my humble blog and leave a comment - my first international comment!! Suddenly I had feedback (yes, positive!) from someone who didn't actually know me! Boy, did THAT make a difference to what and how I wrote!! Well … how much more I thought about it, anyway!

I must have done something right – she still visits regularly! Thank you, Mary!

Lesson #2: Blog to make a difference OR Blogging will change the world!
Jim's wonderful travel blog 'Holes in my Soles' was (and still is) inspirational. His integrity and passion makes for challenging and thought-provoking posts – AND he actually practices what he preaches!

I don't pretend to be in Jim's league in the 'making a difference' stakes, but reading his blog crystallised my own blog focus ('mission statements' are for wankers!), aims and goals.

And while I'm DEVASTATED I didn't win Jim's neat prize (haha!) I'm honoured that he actually follows my blog! Thank you, Jim!
Lesson #3: Your voice is unique OR There's room in the blogosphere for everyone!

I discovered Manzanita's gem of a blog - 'Wanna Buy a Duck' – a few weeks ago. Her passionate, involving posts that challenge and inspire made wonder why anyone would want to read my lightweight snippets about Australian travel! But clearly, some people do!
So while I'm in awe of Manzanita's work, my readers read my blog because, well, they appreciate MY voice - am I right? I guess so – considering Manzanita follows MY blog! Thank you, Manzanita!

Lesson #4: Observe the world around you OR The devil's in the detail!

There's something about River's blog - 'Drifting Through Life' - that keeps me coming back for more. Her ability to see (and photograph) in detail the beauty of the world around her is awesome, as is her ability to share the personal side of her everyday life - something that doesn't come naturally to me. Her blog reminds me of the wonders hidden away in detail we so seldom seek out; and to include more of the personal in my travel posts.

Besides – her description of morning coffee is the best I've EVER read! Thank you, River!

Lesson #5: Take your niche and make it your own OR how many posts can you write about one topic, anyway?!?!

Like my blogs, Kath Lockett's  'Gone Chocco' has a very specific topic – Chocolate! Kath showed me that good, humorous writing means you really CAN write about anything – her narrow topic NEVER gets tired.

AND … she gives GREAT comment! Thank you, Kath!

Lesson #6: Speak from the heart OR You can't fake it!

Jayne's intriguing blog, 'Our Great Southern Land' is absolutely genuine – whether she's reviewing a book, telling stories of her life, imparting historical data, hosting a giveaway or having a good old rant! What you see is what you get – and her fact-laced honesty packs a powerful punch. The card and personal message she enclosed with a giveaway I won on her blog (I swear that's got nothing to do with what I'm saying!), and a later Christmas card showed she also genuinely cares about her readers.

Jayne's blog is a 'must-read' because she speaks from the heart, doesn't pull her punches, inspires debate and is right on the money! Many bloggers – AND politicians - could learn a lot from Jayne's honest, no bullshit approach! As have I! Thank you, Jayne!

Lesson #6: Learn from the experts OR Get Help!

I found Annabel Candy's amazing blog 'Get In the Hot Spot' after she contributed a photo to a travel blog I follow! Go figure!! But a quick visit to this wonderful blog about blogging and I was an immediate devotee! Annabel's expertise – provided free to her readers – has been invaluable, as has the opportunity to learn from the many other blogging experts with whom she networks.

She's taught me to strive for professionalism, new possibilities and perfection (and world domination!!) – there's always something new to learn and put into practice!! Thank you, Annabel!

Lesson #7: Who are your readers? OR Who knows who's interested in what?!

Andrew's fascinating blog 'High Riser' about life in inner city Melbourne shows a world very different to mine (although in some ways, not so much!) - so I became a follower. Who knew he'd actually be interested in a blog about travel in Australia?

When I started my blog, I assumed my followers would be people wanting information about OZ travel or already travelling in OZ, or people who actually knew me – but I didn't think Andrew fell into those categories from reading his a) profile, or b) blog! So when he became a follower, the germ of the 'world domination' idea was planted... instead of limiting my target categories, why not aim my blog at anyone anywhere??

AND … if I'm going for world domination I'd be a fool to make assumptions about my audience! Thank you, Andrew!
Lesson #8: Catchy Titles and Great Pix OR 'Reel them In'

When I first visited the 'Blogs of Note' page I selected a random blog to see what it was all about. I don't recall that blog – but Cathy's catchy blog title - 'Wives with Knives' – immediately jumped out from the favourite blog list! How could I NOT visit?

Of course a catchy title isn't enough for return visits - but the excellent photography and recipes keep me coming back for more. Her blog is a great reminder to focus on a) what attracts people to your blog AND b) why they return! Thank you, Cathy!

Lesson #9: Anti-Circumlocution OR Keep it Simple …!

The best blog posts are nothing like a dissertation on the meaning of life – although aspects of the meaning of life can often be deduced from a great post! Toni's beautifully elegant blog 'ChickChat' is a lesson in the cumulative effects of good blog design and short, snappy posts – that ALWAYS get her message across!

As you can tell from the length of this post, simplicity is a concept with which I struggle (see also above about 'too much information' ...) – Toni's blog is a masterclass in how it's done! Thank you, Toni!

Lesson #10: Why do Bloggers Blog? And why do Readers Read??

Do I have the answer to this? No, but I know why I read Betty's beautiful blog -'Cut and Dry' – because it makes me feel good. I'm clearly not alone as Betty has a stratospheric number of followers – but she still responds warmly and positively to every comment.

Betty epitomises something shared by all those previously mentioned – they give more than they take. And that's a lesson worth learning. Thank you, Betty!

Of course there are many other wonderful blogs out in the blogosphere – a word which I'm not sure I actually like – but I'm going to prove I've learned Lesson #9, and stop at 10!

A heartfelt thank you (well OK – THANX!) to all my fabulous followers, subscribers, readers, visitors and drop-ins who've been part of Year #1– your interest and input has been great for me, and I hope it's been just as fabulous for you!

Stay tuned for Year #2!! 
AND - hope you've enjoyed my b-day celebration as much as I have!!


Only in OZ #11 - The Big Winch, Coober Pedy, South Australia

Big Winch, Coober Pedy, South Australia
Like a giant sword of Damocles, Coober Pedy's Big Winch looms over the head of a hapless tourist. Well … actually, it's Pilchard, sacrificing himself for the photgraphic greater good – so you can see just how big the 'Big Winch' actually is! Luckily for him, the perspective is an optical illusion – and he's in no danger at all.

The Big Winch clearly supports Coober Pedy's claim as 'Opal Capital of the World' - its presence would immediately overwhelm any pretenders to the title!!

This remote frontier mining town, just 'up the road' from the Woomera turnoff, deep in the South Australian outback, has much of its accommodation underground to beat the heat – an odd experience we just had to have on our first visit (2004, when these photos were taken).

Great for the non-claustrophobic – the absence of windows can be disconcerting – we awoke in the dead blackness of night to a pinging sound from the air vent above. A sandstorm? Metal contracting in the cold night air?? Friday-night-post-pub night revellers flicking gravel at the vent (as one does)??? No, it was raining!  Yes, RAINING!!  Arid? Desert?? Yeah ... right!

Underground at Coober Pedy, South Australia
The paranoid may reflect on the ease with which terrorists could use the vents to decimate the town with poison gas, but can probably rest assured that Coober Pedy isn't a strategic or politically viable target.  Unless there's something I don't know ...

Who'd destroy a town with such a unique landmark, anyway? Loud and proud about its heritage, the 'Big Winch' at the Visitors Information Centre leaves the tourist in no doubt as to the town's main industry. Nor does the moonscape of mullock heaps stretching to infinity over the horizon – the visitor's heap is said to yield treasures the miners have missed ...

Getting lucky at Coober Pedy
Although it's my sad duty to tell you that the experience of finding a valuable gem on a tourist mullock heap CAN be faked!

But be warned! Come to this town indifferent to opal (as I was) at your peril!! Yeah, so I didn't buy the AMAZING $800 ring I immediately fell for, I now have a new (the unkind would say 'rabid') desire to possess this fabled gemstone – and I bet you will too!

That's what'll keep you coming back!!
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