Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Red Alert #1 - Holes in my Soles goes to AFRICA!

Developing 'My FavouRED OZ Things' was ALMOST as much fun as finding a new OZ Scenic Public Toilet!!  So much fun, I didn't stop at one ... and 'My FavouRED OZ Things #2' became an entertaining (for me!) way of fulfilling my guest post promise on Jim's wonderfully diverse travel blog 'Holes in my Soles'!

Q:  But what's BEYOND the marvellous RED of OZ??

A:  RED ALERT of course!!

Q:  What's RED ALERT??

A:  Glad you asked!  A unique opportunity for RED lovers around the world to share their amazing RED travel pix on Amazing Australian Adventures!  Oh, and an EXCLUSIVE interview with Red Nomad OZ!

SO ... a big round of applause to Jim for agreeing to be the guinea pig my first RED ALERT guest!!
Red dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia

Red warning signs! South Africa

Red ochre covered Himba women, Namibia

RED: Jim, these photos are amazing! Where were they taken?
JIM:  South Africa, Namibia and Botswana: these countries can hook you with the excitement of a wild animal popping out of the bush unexpectedly and frightening the cr*p out of you! Can't get enough of that!
RED: All three countries look fascinating - I particularly LOVE that sign - but what attracted you to Botswana as a travel destination?
JIM: A very tempting offer to ride shotgun on a stagecoach leaving at High Noon from Pretoria for Victoria Falls and return. As front passenger in the lead 4WD, I got all the best views as it's the following vehicles that have to stay well back for the dust to settle. Downside though is the vehicle coming at us that doesn't stop in time will get us...as happened!

Makgadikgadi Pans Sunset, Botswana
RED: The sunset shots are magnificent! But how can you tell it's in Botswana and not elsewhere - OZ, for example?
JIM: Those parts of Africa are known for the fiery red and orange sunsets. The fine dust of the red soil hangs in the atmosphere creating incredible colours when the sun is at low angles morning and night. Even more so than Australia's Red Centre. Especially awesome to have elephant or giraffe silhouetted against a setting sun.: nowhere else you can see that.
RED: I'm SOOOOOO jealous!  That's never going to happen in OZ!!!

Makgadikgadi Pans Sunrise, Botswana

RED: What was your most memorable Botswana experience??
Red guys insisting "Pay up mate!"
JIM: Still to reveal the tale about that. Let's say in just one  day all of this was packed in - bogged vehicles, road smashes, bureaucracy hassles, elephants up close and playing hide-and-seek with 4 lions in the dark will make for exciting reading. I can't wait to go back!

RED: ARRRRGGHH!  Can't wait to hear about it!

RED: I love the hornbill! Just how close did you have to get for that shot? 
JIM: That was an extraordinary sighting! Kruger Park. That guy just strolled out of the bush with his partner who is rather drab in comparison. He stopped, preened himself, then when he was ready he promenaded one way then the other showing off, then walked right up to the car, pecked my camera and said "OK. Show is over. Pay up!" Love that brilliant red face and crop.


RED: I guess the elephant was even MORE scary to photograph - I don't care that it's not red!  What are some of the hazards of wildlife photography?
JIM: Looking through the viewfinder trying to get that great shot, you can be so engrossed that you forget how close the lion is getting. I looked up once to realise the lioness could have lunged against the wire fence and had me.

RED: Have you ever decided against taking a photo because it's just too dangerous?
Chobe National Park. Not red but lovely.
These guys wanted past and walked up to our bullbars.
JIM: When you are surrounded by elephants with their knees brushing the bullbars, and others whose tusks are scraping the side windows you don't make any unnecessary move nor point anything at them that they may interpret as a threat. Best put the camera down, sit quietly, and enjoy every second...as it may be your last.
RED: How long have you been blogging?
JIM: Almost two years. Started off as an attempt to chronicle our travel experiences, then people from all over started popping up saying they enjoyed reading my stuff. Thought I had better get better at it, and give them more. Amazing that now when I'm travelling everything is looked at more intensely, with a view on how it should be written about or photographed.
RED: Yes, looking at the world through blogging lenses sure does change a travel experience!  Luckily, for the better!!
RED: How has your blog changed since you started blogging?
JIM: I suppose the writing has improved. Gee, I cringe when I go back to the early posts, and re-write and edit a lot now. Still some cringe factor there, don't look anyone!.

RED: What's your proudest blogging achievement (apart from guesting on my
blog, of course)?
JIM: Blog4NZ took off early this year after I floated an idea on a Facebook travel group. We have had a big dip in tourism - the Japanese tourists stopped coming, the financial meltdown and the perception much of the world had of New Zealand after the Christchurch earthquakes sadly affected decisions to travel here. Blog4NZ saw 1,000's of travelbloggers writing, and sharing across Social Media 100's of positive artices about why travel here should still be done. Proudest moment was when Tourism NZ got in behind our effort!
RED: Including me - it was an AWESOME initiative!  What types of blogs do you enjoy reading?
JIM: I enjoy - reading about outback dunnies right here. I like to know where they are, you never know when you got to go.
RED: Haha!  Well ... you kind of HAD to say that, didn't you?!?!

JIM: Barbara has a great site, about places she's been to that I have been to or want to get to, writes in a very good interesting narrative style. Seems to get deeper into places, people and culture than many writers.  Visit Barbara at http://holeinthedonut.com/

Norbert does a very interesting travelblog for things South/Central America. Now on his round the world trip I'm following this intrepid and interesting writer. Hope he makes it downunder for a beer or three.  Visit Norbert at http://www.globotreks.com/

There's a fun, likeable, good all round life blogger who rides bucking broncos through the English language I like to keep tabs on. Roy has a marvellous take on life.  Visit Roy at royd-spiltmilk.blogspot.com/

A J Poliquit stands out for me as a travel writer. He's eloquent with words, not grandly so, but engaging and at times funny.  Visit AJ at The Transcendental Tourist

Kris is great. Fun girl, and you'll love reading her work.  Visit Kris at Absurd traveler.

RED: I look forward to checking them out!  What's your biggest blogging turn off?
JIM: List articles. "5 things you need to know about..." A real turn off. Shopping list travel writing. I like reading people's perceptions of places and about their experiences.

RED: Jim, it's been a pleasure.  But have you got any more red stuff for us before you go?

Chobe River sunset, Chobe National Park, Botswana.

Damaraland Sunrise, Namibia.

Thanx so much, Jim!  Those African REDS are amazing, and will be a hard act to follow for my next RED ALERT guest. 

Next RED ALERT guest?  Who's that, you ask??

Glad you asked again.  It could be YOU!!!  If YOU'VE got some RED travel shots that show off YOUR part of the world, you could be the star of RED ALERT #2!  Or #3 or #4 ...

Contact me via my blogger profile page if YOU want to see your name in (RED) lights - I look forward to bringing you more Round the World REDS soon!!

Let Jim & I know what you think about the inaugural RED ALERT#1 below!  We'll do our best to keep up with responding to the overwhelming avalanche of comments ...

See you next time!

PS  For more information about Jim, check out these links:
Jim McIntosh
Shoemaker & Travel Blogger
http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/
Facebook-
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=652863280
Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/jimshu2000
Digg - http://digg.com/jimshu2000
Stumble - http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/jimshu2000/
Moderator - http://wateringhole.gapadventures.com/

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aussie Outdoor Art #2 - Thargomindah, Outback Queensland

Drawing Water - Thargomindah
I've always known – and accepted! – that when it comes to art, I'm a philistine. But two recent stand-out incidents confirm it beyond all reasonable doubt!!
Andrew's comment on Aussie Outdoor Art#1 affirmed my simplistic and populist tastes – which I happily acknowledge!
But was I REALLY such a philistine I'd mistake Thargomindah's landmark sculpture for an unfinished public toilet?
Well, yes.
Fredrick White Sculpture, Thargomindah
But in my defence, from a distance, the poles glinting in the sunlight by the side of the road DID kind of look like an unfinished building. Especially as the sculpture hadn't been there on our first visit 2 years before.
However, when we stopped for a closer look, I was able to give Frederick White's 'Drawing Water' not only the attention, but the appreciation it so rightly deserves. Its 52 poles symbolise the 4,700 bores delivering a reliable source of water to Outback OZ – without which the area would be uninhabitable for much of the year.
A bore's average depth of 500m – Thargomindah's water was first found at 808m – is represented by reflective discs in the centre. Ironically, these were covered in dust in June 2011, with no sign of the floods that isolated the town for several months earlier in the year!
But the foresight of Thargomindah's early settlers – third in the world (and first in OZ) behind London and Paris with hydro-electric street lighting, and first in OZ with reticulated water - mean the effects of the presence or absence of water are minimised.
Drawing Water - Close Up
However, the nearby, still-operational hydro power plant and cooling ponds – water is around 85º C when it reaches the surface – are reminders of this isolated town's water self-sufficiency. The sculpture's setting in grass, dry ground or dust also reflects recent weather conditions.
Light reflecting and sparkling on polished surfaces and shadows cast by the poles are part of the sculpture's beauty – perhaps a further reminder of alternative, less reliable water sources such as rain, the nearby Bulloo river and Lake Bindegolly.
And all these factors combine to make this eye-catching work of art FAR more fascinating - and important - than just another amenities block!! 

I've linked this post to Scenic Sunday - hop on over there for more fabulous Sunday Scenes from around the world!!
Want MORE? Take the links below ...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #18 - The Most Glamourous Little Outhouse in OZ! One Tree Hill, SA

The Lion and the Loo, Art Through Da Vince's Eyes, South Australia*
Don't let the stone lion fool you. We're not at a garage sale of 'Chronicles of Narnia' props.

And don't be fooled into thinking the building behind the lion is a gatehouse. Oh no!
It's an Outback Outhouse.
Or so it was described by the waitress at surreal Art Through Da Vince's Eyes, a Roman Devonshire Coffee House (a set of words not often seen in the same phrase!) at One Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills. Or foothills, to be more precise.
But it's a rare Outback loo with a chandelier! In fact, the Outback public toilets I've encountered generally look more like Scenic Public Toilets #17 (click HERE), #9 (click HERE) or #4 (click HERE)!!
The Chandelier in the Outhouse
If I'd been more alert, the eclectic array of statues at the outhouse door would have given me a clue to the opulence within. Ornate mirror frames, cherubim, ablutions fountain (yes, FOUNTAIN!) and chandelier complete the black tile-lined ensemble.
You'd be forgiven for thinking the loo was somehow channelling Versace!
By a fortuitous coincidence, my outfit perfectly showcased the black tiles' superb reflective qualities as I stood in the doorway photograph the interior. And it's those same reflective qualities I blame for making me look bigger than I really am …

Scenic Public Toilet Reflections ...
Outside, the bright perfection of this magnificent October 2011 Adelaide spring day gave no clue to the phantasmagorical other world hidden behind the outhouse doors!
Maybe Narnia was nearby after all ...

* Pilchard's brother Wayne, on hand when the last of the film in my camera ran out, was kind enough to take this great perspective shot of Da Vince's Outback Outhouse from the entrance. I call it 'The Lion and the Loo'. Got a better name??

In order to maximize the embarassment of seeing my own double-sized (!!!) reflection in the tiles, I'm linking to Weekend Reflections!  If this sight was too much for you, head over there for more fantastic reflection photography ...


Monday, October 10, 2011

Aussie ABC - F is for Fossils!


Plesiosaur at the Stone House Museum, Boulia
The ancient landscape of OZ, eroded by time, long disappeared sea beds and a harsh climate has given rise to weirdly unique and bizarre creatures. Well … their remains, anyway!

I knew this. But I DIDN'T know the present day Outback fossil fields near northwest Queensland's Richmond, would engender a creature more fantastic than any of them.
And I was there when the Bermuda Trianglesque alignment of mystical forces during our July 2011 visit to the Richmond fossil fossicking fields coalesced to spawn an almost-alien almost-super heroic life form.


Fossilhunter
Where else could the trappings of an ordinary life of relative civilization be thrown aside so fecklessly – to transmogrify into the fabled and fearless, frenetic and frightening …

FOSSILHUNTER!!

I blame the 'Honour Roll' exhibit.
Kronosaurus Queenslandicus replica - Richmond, Queensland
As we left Richmond's Kronosaurus Korner, inspired by an array of wondrous fossil finds worthy of removal by study at Harvard University, an exhibit near the exit catalogued some exciting discoveries. We stopped for a closer look. An honour roll of significant fossil finds – unearthed by tourists, many of them children on family holidays, at the nearby fossicking fields!

Yes, the fossil force-field started to stir …

Then again, maybe the blame lies with the 'dig'.


Moving the Fish Skeleton, Richmond, Queensland
Armed with our photocopied 'Fossil-Hunting Guide', map from the Visitor Information Centre and shovel, we arrived at the fields ready to kick some serious fossil-finder butt. Only to be trumped by a pair of Canadians who'd discovered a rare, almost complete fish skeleton (cick HERE for the story) that even made the news – although incomprehensibly claimed by Queensland's premier as a great personal triumph. We watched the plaster cast being lifted from the ground for the bumpy trip back to the lab.

The odds of finding fossils are astronomically high on this Toolebuc formation – an ancient limestone sea floor, where almost every rock yields animal remains. We couldn't miss, right? SURELY we could outdo the Canadians – after all, this was virtually our home turf! And Pilchard's gemstone fossicking skills, well developed from countless hours on the sapphire and opal fields, were transferrable to the fossil medium, weren't they??

Inside a moonrock!
But the final blame for FOSSILHUNTER lies with junior FOSSILHUNTER.
Part of the 'dig', a young lad casually wandered up to one of the staff with something in his hand. 'What've you got there?' she asked, bending over for a closer look.

'Fish jaws,' he replied nonchalantly as she got out her fossil-hunter kit – magnifying glass and preservation liquid.

'Fish jaws, huh?' Pilchard snorted, and I could sense his competitive urge rising, along with the hot, green bile of envy.

And right then, right there, FOSSILHUNTER emerged, fully formed and frantic for a frenetic fossil finding frenzy!
Outer Barcoo Interpretive Centre, Isisford, Queensland
The uninformed may well believe FOSSILHUNTER's foiled attempt to join the fossil-finding elite*** was due to lack of expertise.  I blame lack of equipment - ie only two (map, shovel) of the guide's 14 suggested field equipment items!  My discovery of a Scenic Public Toilet only partly made up for the disappointment of remaining amongst the millions of Australians who haven't yet found a major fossil …

But where FOSSILHUNTER failed, many others have succeeded – a list of Queensland fossil hotspots reads like an Outback who's who! And Richmond, along with Winton and Hughenden, forms the Dinosaur trail – although impressive fossil credentials in other towns (eg Muttaburra, Eromanga, Mt Isa, Isisford and Boulia)  put them on the map for fossil enthusiasts*.

'Mutt' - main street, Hughenden, Queensland
Where else in the world can you see such fine (and in some cases - only) examples of Plesiosaur, Isisfordia duncanii, Richmond pliosaur, Muttaburrasaurus langdoni, Minmi** and more?

Of course transmogrifying into FOSSILHUNTER isn't a requirement for appreciating Australia's fossil finds - but Richmond, aka 'Fossil capital of Australia', is one of the few places that FOSSILHUNTER and his ilk can actually join the hunt.


Minmi, Richmond, Queensland
Thanx to FOSSILHUNTER's superior skills (yes, he's probably reading this ...) I'm betting that although we've already seen more fossils in Queensland than the average person, we'll be following the fossil trail to other states!  Bet you can't wait either ...

For now, following the fossil finding failure in the fossicking fields, FOSSILHUNTER is dormant. But who can say when fossil force field fever will once again activate FOSSILHUNTER and trigger the next awakening??

*Click on each town for more information
** Click on each dinosaur for more information
*** No, other than the rock fossil in FOSSILHUNTER's hand, not one of the exhibits above had ANYTHING to do with either of us ... unbelieveable, huh?!

AND ... Click HERE for more fabulous participants in Our World Tuesday!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Random Adventure #4 - Toompine, Queensland

Outside the Toompine Pub, Queensland
With an official population of 2, tiny Toompine is barely a blip on the radar!
And yet, all roads seem to lead there in the western Queensland Outback. A simple triangulation between Eulo, Thargomindah and Quilpie yields Toompine's coordinates almost exactly.
But is that enough reason to visit? Of course not!
But finding out why the local cemetery is called a 'cemery'? To our regret, we hadn't succumbed to this tempting lure, posed by the visitor guide on our first visit to the Quilpie Shire in 2009. So the intriguing question was an irresistible drawcard when we returned in June 2011.
The drive from Quilpie follows the historic 'Dowling Track' south, passing a turnoff to the Duck Creek opal field - site of 'Pride of the Hills, the first opal mine in Australia, registered in 1871. And home of the 'Huns Head' opal – at 15.75 kg (35 lb) Queensland's largest find!
Toompine Terraces Accomodation
But ... giant opals being absent from the roadside, or at least not visible from the car, we were free to continue our 80km drive south to the Toompine pub.
It's not a town though - this onetime Cobb & Co changing post/overnight stop built in 1893 proudly proclaims itself as 'the pub with no town'!
Still maintaining its reputation for hospitality, the Toompine pub draws a steady stream of visitors with to offer of free camping (includes power and hot showers), the 'Toompine Terraces', or drinks and meals for those just passing through!

Morning Tea at Toompine, Queensland
But there's more.
Our nerves shot by swerving to avoid the errant bustard* crossing the road, we entered the pub in search of refreshment. Urbanites please note – this isn't the place to order a skinny-soy-decaf-latte unless you want to provide some inadvertent amusement. But if you can, time your visit (as we did - inadvertently) to coincide with a bus tour at morning tea time. Then, for $7 you can pig out on sample a s**tload variety of delicacies straight from the CWA** cookbook. Trust me. Fancy coffee is not relevant here. And you won't need lunch – you'll be so full it'll feel like you're going to have a food baby!
Toompine - the pub with no town!
So after sampling at least one of everything, admiring the pub's historic displays, chatting with Stacey and Amelia and admiring the pub's exterior and campground, we returned to Quilpie, never to eat again. Or at least not that day ...

But damned if I didn't forget to find out why the cemetery is called a 'cemery'!

So if YOU ever find out, PLEASE put me out of my misery and let me know!!

Behind the bar, Toompine Hotel, Queensland
* No, that's NOT a misspelling. The Australian Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in OZ - and could cause a LOT of damage to one's car were one to hit one. Especially if travelling at speed.

** Country Womens Association comprised, as far as I can tell, of extraordinarily good cooks devoted to resurrecting the lost art of taking tea. They could perform no nobler task.

Later Edit:  Well, thanx to Saucy Kod over at Saucy Kodz Blog, the mystery is solved! Saucy Kod emailed a quote from information on the wall of the pub!  Where I've actually been and she hasn't!!

"Some distance to the west of the hotel is a small cemetery in which there are ten graves. Only three of these have headstones. Two young children (3 years) are buried there with one dying from gastroenteritis and the other from strychnine poisoning. The strychnine poisoning was caused by the young lad playing on some kangaroo skins that had been treated with arsenic.

"The sister of this young lad travelled to the Toompine area and found the graveyard in disrepair. She carved a sign "Cemery" in a piece of Mulga to mark the graveyard. Quilpie Shire Council has since fenced this cemetery and has used this sign "Cemery" so lovingly placed to mark her brother's final resting place.

She found the information at http://austcemindex.com/cemetery.php?id=767 where there are also a couple of photos of the cemetery.  Or should I say cemery.
I don't know whether to be ecstatic or embarrassed that it took a Canadian to succeed where this Australian failed in finding info about this obscure Aussie Outback location!  But I was clearly too busy eating my way to a food baby to read ALL the info on the pub wall!!

So ... why not pay Saucy Kodz a visit and thank her in person?  Thanx again, SK - girlfriend, you ROCK!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aussie Icons #5 - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine, Queensland

Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine Queensland
When the Tree of Knowledge was poisoned shortly after it's inclusion on the National Heritage List on Australia Day, 2006, I was appalled. Another Aussie historic landmark fallen victim to the disregard sometimes shown for our heritage. So … while appalled, I was also resigned to its fate. If a tree dies, it's gone for good, right? RIGHT??

Wrong!

Is it just OZ where a replacement tree would be considered a viable option? Maybe, maybe not. But we're not talking a simple replanting. That'd be too easy. We're talking rebuilding!

So when news broke that the tree would be replaced by a virtual monument – an homage to the original Tree of Knowledge – I was sceptical.

Could a virtual tree memorial be built that actually at least equalled the real thing? Because if it DIDN'T, what would be the point??

Roses and Things - Afternoon Tea


You've probably figured by now that this Tree of Knowledge isn't the Garden of Eden original. Although the nearby Roses and Things garden and tea rooms closely approximates how I'd imagined the legendary garden, downtown Barcaldine isn't quite the same thing!  Despite it being known as 'Garden City of the West' ...

Exterior - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine
But why all this fuss about a tree?

Well ... Barcaldine is WAAAY more than just an edenesque Rose Garden and killer bakery! It's arguably the only place in Australia – if not the world! - with a combination heritage walk/pub crawl based around the 5 historic pubs in the main street!!

But I digress …

One of Barcaldine's 5 main street pubs!
 
In 1891, a dispute between shearers, their union and local pastoralists polarised political opinion, culminating in an historic strike and the rise of the Australian Labor Party. Events unfolded under a Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus papuana) in the town's centre, subsequently dubbed the 'Tree of Knowledge'.

A local and national iconic symbol, poisoning the tree wasn't just vandalism - but political sabotage. And an appropriate replacement for this priceless icon?

Impossible!
Or was it?

Under the Canopy - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine
 So, in August 2011, I approached the virtual tree with some apprehension.  Probably the best I could hope for was that I didn't hate it. But, standing in the shade covering the area of the original canopy, I experienced a rare moment of speechless admiration. Incorporating the preserved trunk and some branches of the original, but with a canopy of wooden cylinders to replicate leaves and the sound of wind in the 'foliage', this awesome virtual tree ROCKS*!

This stunning tribute actually betters (in my opinion!) the original icon it commemorates.

But perhaps that's partly because it provides a unique photographic experience in that it's almost impossible to take a poor shot!!

Under the Canopy - Detail
And there's hope for the future too, with Barcaldine's Australian Workers Heritage Centre home to the 'Young-Un' (or Son of Tree of Knowledge!) grown from the original tree's DNA!

So, maybe another icon will be unveiled at the 'Tree of Knowledge' festival in another hundred years or so!!  Watch this space ...

 
* Well done, Brian Hooper and m3architecture!

PS  So as not to disappoint regular readers accustomed to a never-ending stream of Outback 
cliché shots, I leave you with this superb windmill just outside the Barcaldine Visitor Information Centre!  You're welcome ...

Windmill, Barcaldine, Queensland

Oh!  One more thing ... if you think THIS is amazing, check out 'Our World Tuesday' for more fabulousness (?!) from all around the world!

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