A couple of days ago I gave myself permission to be curious. I’m now going to extend that curiosity to the physical, by giving myself permission to explore the word and open myself to new experiences.
One of my passions is travel. I am grateful to my parents for instilling in me a sense of adventure and for exposing me to other countries during my childhood years. I have tried to do the same for my children and we have a few more family trips left in us. Time is precious and each trip now together as a family takes on another dimension and a sense that this is something special.
When I first had children, I remember receiving a pamphlet from the pharmacist which said something along the lines of:
Your children won’t remember their ironed clothes, but they will remember your shared experiences
The notion has stuck with me ever since. I’ve been busy creating shared experiences for the family (Oh, no not again!!!), but also now at middle age, solo experiences for my own memories. The realty is that my health can only decline from this point and there is a whole lot of living left to be done.
So here are the highlights of my exploration and experience bucket list. I’m getting itchy feet just thinking about these!
A = Egypt, which has long been a fascination
B = Marrakesh, Morocco
C = Istanbul a city spanning two continents. Take me to the Grand Bazaar…
D = The Greek Islands, especially Santorini
E = Tomatina festival in Spain. Get down and salsa!
F = Sunset camel ride in Broome, Western Australia
There’s a whole lot more as well. The world is now truly a playground.
Right now all of my work colleagues are planning overseas trips within the next 12 months. There’s a lot of planning and travel talk, glossy brochures and yearning on my part and I’m living my vicarious travel dreams through them.
In the meantime I content myself with road trips within a two to three hour vicinity and create my own local experiences. After all everything can be an experience, depending on what you make of it.
It’s time to get busy making memories!
Do you yearn for farawy places and experiences? What places are on your exploration bucket list?
I am thrilled to be able to bring you this Let’s Phlog Monday post after such a long Monday Phlogging hiatus.
Last weekend I had the good fortune to visit the Wombeyan Caves. A large network of limestone caves, the Wombeyans are located in the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve, about a 3 hour drive south of Sydney. It includes the Fig Tree Cave, which is generally known as the best self-guided cave tour in New South Wales.
The trip was made more exciting because it was totally spontaneous. A friend and I had been in the area for coffee and decided to use the afternoon to explore. After seeing a turnoff with a sign that the Caves were sixty six kilometres away, we decided to do the Thelma and Louise thing and just go for it (without the death plunge, of course). A mere two hours later we arrived after braving the (unbeknown to us) winding unsealed road. The drive was well worth the effort.
We chose to take a ranger guided tour through the Junction Cave, which is known for its colours, flowstones and shawl formations. There we met the Mango. John Mango was our ranger guide and he made the cave come alive. There are some people you meet and you can’t help but admire the passion they have – this was The Mango, a ranger of twenty years experience in the area who clearly had an affinity with nature and the beautiful formations that lay before our eyes. The Mango’s enthusiasm and dramatic (almost poetic) commentary gave the afternoon another dimension. Better yet, we had The Mango to ourselves as we were the only tour participants that afternoon.
As we wandered through the cave, The Mango played with the lighting to create the most dramatic effects. Looking at the structures, I marveled at how unique magnificence can be built drop by drop with patience and perseverance. All around me there were new stalactites and stalagmites forming, and reaching for each other. The drop before supporting the drop that would come after. And when the two ”ites” meet a column would be formed. Mites and Tites reaching out to each other willing to connect.
One of the most magnificent formations was a large shawl, nicknamed, streaky bacon grandma shawl. The colours were amazing along with the horizontal layering effect. Each layer representing change in the morphology above the ground.
The area and the caves certainly had a mystical quality to them and we will be back to explore them further.
Drop by Drop
All of these were taken with a smartphone camera, no flash.
Have you ever headed off the beaten track on a whim? Do you prefer sponteneity in your advertures or would you rather pre-plan everything?
Is there anything more soothing and magical than the ocean?
I have always been drawn to the ocean and consider myself lucky living in a beautiful harbourside city with amazing beaches. The rhythm of the breaking waves, the blue azure of water on a sunny day and the glinting of the sun all combine to seductively draw me to its presence. Even just walking along the cliff tops, gazing out at the Pacific Ocean, letting my mind wander is incredibly cathartic. Occasionally, the water throws up one of its inhabitants in the form of a dolphin or a whale to remind me of Mother’s wonderful nature.
About 18 years ago, the Italian Stallion did a PADI dive course and obtained our open water diver qualification. This enables us to dive to 18 metres. We have not dived as much as we have liked as we put diving on hold when our children were born. But the lure of it is ever present.
There is nothing like a dive, particularly in tropical waters. We have been lucky enough to dive in a few tropical locations and snorkel in a few others, including the Great Barrier Reef. Tropical waters are warm and clear and the visibility is amazing and that’s just the start! Then there’s the marine life, spanning the spectrum of nature’s palette, a world of grace and action, beauty and terror.
Our last diving experience was in Morea, Tahiti in the lagoon. We decided to take it slow with an introductory dive to reacquaint ourselves with this wonderful activity after our parenting hiatus. I remember the day vividly. I woke up nervously questioning whether diving was like riding a bike and whether I could really just jump back in and pick it up. We were the only people on the dive that morning, being escorted by Pascal, a handsome fifty-something year old silver-haired Frenchman who spoke no English. Luckily I had five years of schoolgirl French in my repertoire and between a lot of hand gestures, bad French (on my part) worse English on Pascal’s part and miming we established basic communications. I think I must have inadvertently communicated my nervousness because Pascal looked as though he was stuck with a skittish nerveball on his hands wondering how he we were all going to survive the next two hours.
To do an introductory dive, you have to pass two underwater skills. One is to take off your mask and put it back on without it ending up full of water and the other is to put the breathing apparatus (called a regulator) back in your mouth once it has fallen out. We all jumped into the water to do these skills. I had done them before of course, but that was over a decade back. Hitting the water, I started to panic breath. Panic breathing (short sharp bursts of gasping breath) is not a good thing on a dive as it quickly consumes precious oxygen. Pascal tried to calm me down in his gentlemanly French way holding me in a death grip, liability firmly etched in his face.
Within minutes I started to listen to my breathing, found the rhythm, focused on the length of each breath and watched the bubbles. I was back!! Pascal was relieved and gave me the OK sign with his fingers. Quickly dispensing with the skills we set out to explore. The kaleidoscope of colours was amazing, the fish life incredible and the thrill of spotting a shark energizing. But what I will particularly remember is getting reacquainted with the slow and deliberate movements of the dive. You kick slowly and deliberately, you turn slowly and deliberately and you breath slowly and deliberately. There are not too many opportunities in life to just be slow and deliberate. I also remember the euphoric feeling afterwards and this huge jolt of confidence in my abilities.
I am hoping to one day dive the Maldives and Palau, possibly with the children. In the meantime, I am content to explore the underwater world by snorkel from above confident in the knowledge that diving really is like riding a bike….. you never forget. Oh and it really does help to have a handsome silver-haired French diving expert and the Italian Stallion egging you on.
Are you a water person or a land lubber?
I have been reading some fantastic blogs on my travels through the A to Z Challenge. One of them is by Geoff Maritz, who lives in Capetown, South Africa. Geoff’s concept for the Challenge is to write about his home in Africa, including its wildlife. You can find Geoff’s blog here: Geoff’s Blogs. He has a killer post about Kilimanjaro today – great K word, Geoff!
Geoff has inspired me to write about some of Australia’s unique killer wildlife. Let me show you a couple of our natives.
Kangaroos are native to Australia and are marsupials. The name ‘kangaroo” is derived from the Aboriginal language. “Kangaroo” was originally “gangurru” and was the native’s description of the grey kangaroo. Groups of kangaroos are called mobs.
Some kangaroos can jump 30 feet and and can hop up to 45 kilometres and hour. The largest kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo, can grow as high as 6 feet and weigh 200 pounds. Something I didn’t know and just found out was that kangaroos can’t move backwards and they can’t move their back feet independantly on land. However, when they swim they can kick with one foot at a time. Baby kangaroos are called joeys and are born after only 31 – 36 days of gestation. They are basically tiny, pink, hairless animals that don’t come off of their mother’s teat for weeks and live in their mother’s pouch.
Kangaroos are strong and males usually box. Usually this is playful, but can be part of a show of dominance. You do NOT want to be kicked by a kangaroo, although it is an amazing feat of strength and balance. A kangaroo will rear up on its tail and then kick with both feet at the same time. If you are a male of average height, that usually connects with your pride and joy. Great subject for a family video, but you would only want to capture that frame once!
Kangaroos essentially sleep during the day and feed at night. Contrary to popular belief, there are no kangaroos hopping down the street in urban areas, although in some parts this can happen in times of drought. Most urban dwelling Australians see kangaroos by the side of the road – either alive or as road kill or in a wild life sanctuary, just like tourists.
Koalas are only found in four states of Australia: Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The word ‘koala‘ comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘no drink’. Koalas mostly eat eucalyptus leaves and this provides them with the water they need. Therefore, they do not, or only rarely, drink water.
Koalas are not actually bears, they are marsupials, which means they carry their young in a pouch like kangaroos. Adult koalas measure between 64 to 76 centimetres in length and weigh between 7 and 14 kilograms.
Koalas have a great life, they basically eat and sleep and seem constantly in a languid satiated state. The reason Koala’s sleep so much is that it takes a lot of energy to digest eucalyptus leaves, which are tough. They are also poisonous to other species. Male koalas are solitary animals, like their man caves and often live alone.
Most urban Australians will see koalas only in the wildlife sanctuary just like tourists. Sometimes, you can catch a glimpse of a colony of koalas living in trees in rural areas, but in my experience this is occasional at best. Unfortunately koala habitat is on the decline and they are also under threat from cars and dog attacks.
So, come on down and see the natives. They are cute, entertaining and we really don’t bite….much!
April 1st has finally rolled around bringing with it the start of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge . Good luck to all the participants – whether you’re a first timer and new to blogging like me or a seasoned blogger and Challenge champion. And a big thank you to the A to Z Challenge gods for giving my blog a shout out in their weekly wrap up last night. It means much.
Living in this time zone, I guess I am one of the first cabs of the rank… so let the alphablogging games begin!
Australia is my homeland and I am an Aussie. Aussies tend to refer to Australia as the lucky country, with good reason. Leaving politics aside, Australia is truly blessed with natural beauty (and beauties), a terrific climate, unique killer wildlife (the beauties aren’t included in that statement) and wonderful freedoms. I am truly grateful to be living here.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were just over 500,000 visitor arrivals to our fair shores in January 2012, the majority of which were from New Zealand (75,000), China (77,200) United Kingdom (57,000) and United States of America (38,000).
If you have ever travelled to a country for the first time, you know that there’s a fine line between fitting in and looking so much at home that you are asked for directions by other tourists! No tourist wants to stand out with a big “T” on their forehead. So here’s my 5 tips on how to do Australia like an Aussie:
1. Do your tanning on the beach – Australia is blessed with some of the most amazing beaches in the world. Crystal blue waters and soft white sand abound. If you are visiting a coastal city, do your tanning at the beach and not in a mid-city park. The only Aussies who wear a bikini in the park are those visiting a public swimming pool located there and those coming home after a big night on the town, having lost their clothes. Besides, you haven’t really experienced tanning until you have had sand in your cozzie (Aussie word for swimming costume) and crevices.
2. A temperature of less than fifteen degrees Celsius does not a summer day make – Australia is blessed with amazing weather. Summers are hot and winters are temperate. However, to most Aussies a temperature of fifteen degrees does not constitute a day worthy of shorts and a tank top. Appropriate dress for fifteen degrees is jeans, a jumper and a neck scarf!
3. Treat the possibility of a shark attack with the same caution as the possibility of a car accident - most Aussies are acutely aware that there are killer sharks swimming in our oceans. This does not stop us from enjoying the surf. News of death by shark attack is rare and reports of shark attacks seem to be greatly exaggerated by overseas media.
By contrast, treat the possibility of a crocodile attack seriously. For some reason, they particularly like the taste of European tourists.
4. Give everything a short, pithy nickname - Aussies tend to shorten the name of everything and everyone. Any word with more than three syllables is too much to say after a few drinks. For example, ” McDonalds” becomes “Maccas” (you’ll probably really need to know that one after a few drinks), Barbeque becomes “Barby”, “Kimberley” becomes “Kimbo” and “Politicians” become “a waste of space” er… I mean “Pollies”.
5. Savour all of our amazing food – Australians love to eat Aussie food. We love our pizza, yiros, pad thai, and donner kebab. Any dish which contains pineapple is considered Australian even if it originated from another country.
Now that you have had a taste of my homeland I hope you’ll come on down. Follow these tips and you’ll be tourist savvy in no time.
[photo of the letter A from flikr - Leo Reynolds]