Monday, February 29, 2016


We have been staying at the Admiral Collingwood Lodge ( in the suburb of Drummoyne since last Wednesday, our longest stop in any one place for the last three months. It's a great place...less than 10 minute walk to the ferry and less than 5 minutes to major bus routes and grocery stores, etc., a lovely neighbourhood for an eight day stay. The Lodge is a Victorian "Italianate" mansion and has been nicely renovated. Bathrooms and kitchen are shared facilities, and all is in good order, unlike some places where we've shared kitchens with people who don't have the same eye to hygiene as I do! I have been able to get up every morning just after 6 AM and sit on the first floor veranda, behind the bougainvillea...

...with my knitting and watch the sunrise over the centre of the city (aka the CBD)...

We have enjoyed the ferry rides to and from the city...

And have learned a lot about the European settlement (convicts, free settlers and other immigrants) from 1788 and on. The museums here are wonderful, and we have also enjoyed a couple of walking tours, both on our own and escorted. The architecture is eclectic, from 19th C sandstone buildings (quarried nearby) to Victorian terraced housing, modern skyscrapers and towers, shorter Art Deco buildings, cathedrals, and of course the iconic Opera House...

...where we enjoyed both a tour in and around the complex... well as a performance of "The Pearlfishers" Saturday afternoon. The story of the design and construction of the Opera House was almost as dramatic as an opera. The Danish architect submitted the winning design without being certain that it could be built, and it took him three years to figure it out (using the geometry of a sphere), and meanwhile construction had started on the base. Cost overruns were enormous,and the architect either quit or was fired before it was done. However it really is a magnificent building with multiple small and large performance spaces, and a diverse program. Scheduled this week were two operas, symphony and jazz trumpet (Winton Marselis), Romeo and Juliet, an X-rated cabaret, a family Disney program, and more.

Being so close to the ocean, we took the ferry out to Manly Beach which is as close to the mouth of the harbour as you can get on a ferry. It was a very hot day and we were looking forward to jumping into the water,  but it was cold! We didn't stay in long. For warmer waters, we would have to go further north to Queensland...that will have to wait for next time.

Today we are travelling the opposite direction up river as far as we can go by ferry, and then take the bus or train back. We have Opal cards for public's a smart card that you load up with funds, then tap on and off. Makes getting around very easy, and we're hoping to get out to the airport on Thursday with very little $$ left on the cards. We will see... 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


We had thought we would be making the rounds of the national museums and galleries, however instead we immersed ourselves in the parliamentary culture and history of Australia. We stayed two nights with new friends and ATC hosts, Susan and Duncan in a suburb about 13 km south of the city. They live in a townhouse overlooking a lake, complete with backyard garden of tomatoes, squash, raspberries and three chickens named K, F and C who each lay one egg a day. When in this very private back yard, it was difficult to remember that there were neighbours close by.

Canberra, the capital of Australia, is a planned city developed in this location in the 20th C because of the rivalry and competition between Sydney and Melbourne. Australia became an independent nation in 1901 when all the former colonies joined together in a federation. Have a look at the map of Canberra and environs... (This is a screen shot from a map app,

It is a web of interconnected Expressways, Parkways, and Drives lined with lots of trees, with two concentric circles around the Parliamentary buildings on Capital Hill. There are lots of trees, most of them recognizable to us as deciduous trees from the Northern Hemisphere. The trees effectively screen the suburbs, neighbourhoods and towns from the expressways, so it's not until leaving these main roads did we get a sense of how the neighbourhoods are laid pods of curving streets.
We parked in the "Parliamentary Triangle", a large leafy and shaded space, first stopping into the High Court to enjoy its majestic architecture and then walking up to the "new" parliament (dating from the 1980s) on the top of the hill. 

We were in time for the free 11 am tour, and one of its highlights was seeing this enormous woven tapestry of a bush scene hanging in the Great Hall. 

We enjoyed the tour so much we signed up for the paid "behind the scenes" tour at noon, getting a good dose of Australian history. And in between we also went up by the roof for a good look, then to the cafe for lunch, and finally Question Period at 2 pm which was just as raucous and unruly as the BC Legislature and Canadian Parliament. We'd had enough within about 15 minutes. 
Out the front doors looking towards the "old" parliament (now a fascinating museum of Democracy including a good section on the Magna Carta and why it is important)...

In the background is the War Memorial just below Mount Ainslie, and so we drove up there next to get a good view looking back...

Yesterday we drove through the hills to Wollongong which is on the coast about an hour and half south of Sydney. We wanted to be within striking distance because we have to drop the car off by noon, but first want to drive into the city and leave all our stuff at the hotel. It's hot here! Yesterday the temp was in the mid 30s and one of the first things we did was go to the beach, a five minute walk away. I then sat in my damp bathing suit with my knitting in the shade...

Next posts from Sydney!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

In the Snowy Mountains

We booked in for three nights in a cottage in the village of Khancoban on the eastern slopes of the Snowy Mountains and near the headwaters of the Murray. We were at the river's mouth just over a week ago, and now here we are near its origin. It has felt a bit like tracing the Fraser or the Columbia Rivers in BC...similar stories of navigation, resource extraction, irrigation and agriculture, hydro power, fisheries, and environmental impact.

We are definitely off the tourist track here in Khancoban. Constructed in the early 1960s to provide accommodation and services to the people building the Snowy Hydro dams nearby, Khancoban is a shadow of its former self. In its heyday, the population was well over 5000 people from all over the world (much like Kitimat, BC attracting workers from war torn Europe). Now it's way less than 500 ("including the cats and dogs!", said my informant with a grin). There is a large hotel complex which has been shut down and abandoned (across the road from our cottage behind the rose garden)...

...which had been built to provide accommodation to single men working on the dam.  There are empty store fronts, and large grassy expanses with no buildings (where there might once have been?) The general store has recently closed, and there's a sign in the window of the cafe next door that they now sell bread and milk. The next town of any size is Corryong about 25 km away, and this is where people shop and find other services. There's a small elementary school (called "primary" in Australia) for kids ages 5 to 12 and it struggles to stay viable, and the high school kids are bussed to Corryong. Once a dam is built it doesn't need a lot of workers to run it. There was probably hope that Khancoban could reinvent itself as a tourist hub because a big ski hill is about 75 km away, however we went over that narrow, twisting road (The Alpine Way) yesterday and I would hate to do it in snow! Apparently coach tours used to stop here,but that road proved too dangerous. It is extremely popular with motorcyclists.

Hydro electric power is the big deal here in the Snowy Mountains. Just like on the Columbia River in the BC Kootenays, in the 1950s and 60s dams were built on rivers, and other rivers were diverted through long tunnels into the two main watersheds on the western slopes. There are several power stations that are mainly used to provide peak-demand electricity. Towns that were once on the riverbanks were re-established on higher ground next to the new lakes. Snowy Hydro is required to release a certain amount of water to be used for irrigation each year--this is stored downstream behind a series of dams and weirs and is controlled by the irrigation authorities.

On Friday we drove right up into Mount Kusciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains and had a pleasant walk beside the Thredbo River.

A fire swept through this area about 13 years ago, killing the Snow Gum trees but causing their seeds to germinate. The white snags remain and there is abundant growth coming up around the trees. This is yet another reason these mountains are named Snowy! (At least IMHO)

This has been a relaxing three days, complete with knitting on the deck every morning and evening.

An added bonus are the kangaroos which come hopping through the grassy stretch beside the cabin around sundown. I had hoped to include a photo of them but you'll just have to use your imagination!

Next stop, Canberra, the nation's capital where we will indulge in museums and galleries.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A pleasant lunch stop in the Murray valley

Thursday, on our way here, we had a delightful lunch stop near Rutherglen. Around noon we started looking for picnic spots, and I suggested to Lloyd that we look for a winery to do some tasting at the same time. We had great luck. We turned into a winery named "Olive Hills". As we drove up the long dusty driveway, I wondered if it was even open for tasting and sales. We passed vines that appeared to be neglected and dried up.

We arrived at the cellar door...

...and went in, to find no one in sight. There was a note on the bar saying to ring the winemaker, Ross, for assistance. We could hear a tractor out back. We decided to eat our lunch on the patio out front and to phone him later. He appeared soon after, and invited us in after lunch. This is a very small family-run vineyard. The historic house--which appears to be solid brick like many of the old homes here--was built by one of the original Europeans in the late 1800s. 

Just over a hundred years later in 1996, Ross and his family bought the property and established one of the few dry land vineyards in Australia. He prides himself on not irrigating his vines, but as a result his yield is less than half of his neighbours. The average annual rainfall is about 23 inches per year and one of his biggest challenges is a late spring frost, for example his 2014 vintage was wiped out by a frost just after the fruit had set. What keeps this winery afloat are weddings. The cellar is a fabulous location, very reminiscent of Italian and French cellars...dark and dusty with a long table down the centre and crystal chandeliers above. They are getting ready for a wedding with 180 guests in two weeks time. 

We enjoyed the wine tasting...I even liked the red "Durif" which was smooth and velvety (white wines are my usual preference)...and bought a couple of bottles of his Chardonnay and Rose for later. See the website for some lovely

More about the Snowy Mountains in the next post.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Moving East Along the Murray River

We are now travelling east towards Sydney, and it feels like we're on our way home. We fly out of Sydney two weeks today. This has been an amazing journey, and the last week has been no exception.

When Vernon friends of ours heard that we were planning to be in South Australia, they said, "You must meet our Aussies!", friends they'd made while on a teaching exchange several years ago. We were in touch by email, and the outcome was fabulous. We were hosted for three nights by one couple, and toured around Adelaide by another, ending up at a beach cafe for dinner and a sunset Friday night...

...and then Lloyd took over the kitchen to cook his famous ribs, roasted spuds, and "Imam Bayildi" (eggplant) meal Saturday night accompanied with lots of Aussie wine. 

A view of the city of Adelaide from the hills...

We now feel we have many new friends and hope they come to Canada so we can return the hospitality. We left Adelaide on Sunday to travel a short distance to the Barossa, a wine region abut an hour and half north east of Adelaide. The purpose of this visit was to meet one of my stole commissioners! When Lloyd suggested Australia as a destination last year, I said yes, on condition that we meet the folks who commissioned stoles (one in the Barossa and another in Sydney). Kirsten Due commissioned two stoles for her husband Noel in October 2014 and  December 2013 (See at the bottom of the page, and for even more info see the blog posts for those dates). Especially thrilling was our timing...Noel was installed in his new position Sunday night, and we were able to attend the service. It was a real privilege to meet Noel and Kirsten and members of their community. And of course very exciting for me to see him wearing the first stole I created for him, The River of God stole. We stayed overnight with Kirsten and Noel, and the next morning Noel took us on a little tour around the valley. This was settled by German-speaking immigrants in the mid 1800s, and has morphed into an important wine region, for cool climate wines. (I have had some difficulty with this adjective of "cool" because it's not like the Okanagan cool climate! Here, they get a little frost in the winter, but the "cool" refers to the nighttime temps, not the daytime.) it's a very attractive place, relatively green with all the vineyards, with many villages of old stone houses and churches, mainly Lutheran. Here we are overlooking the valley...

It was a short, sweet and intense visit to both Adelaide and the Barossa, and I look forward to maintaining these friendships.

We left the Barossa around noon, heading east along the Sturt Highway and then the Murray River Highway. The Murray River is hugely important to agriculture in South Australia and Victoria states. An irrigation scheme was first developed in the 1880s by  a couple of Canadians who had done something similar in Ontario. The river is navigable for most of its length, and this was the only way to get to the Australian outback until highways were constructed in the 20th C. There are still some paddle wheelers plying the waters as cruises for tourists, and we went on one at Mildura Tuesday afternoon. 

This boat is over 100 years old, and is lovingly maintained. Wood is burned to provide the steam energy. The paddle wheels are on the sides. We went through one of the many locks on the river...

The water level remains fairly constant throughout the year because of the weirs holding it back, and thus there are several locks for boats to move from one level to the next. 
The captain in the wheel house...
The original steam engine...

Without this water for irrigation, there would be no agriculture (grapes for wine, table and raisins; citrus, avocados, and almonds; and market gardens). The native scrub land is dry and sandy, very arid and desert-like, and we have been driving through lots of that. We happened to catch a radio interview about the Murray-Darling River basin, and it's a huge challenge to maintain a balance between competing needs for water...agriculture, tourism (river cruises, fishing, houseboats, ski boats) and ecology (maintaining wetlands for native flora and fauna, especially at the mouth of the river). The Murray rises in the Snowy Mountains to the east and the Darling rises in Queensland to the north--both are dependent on rainfall and that is dropping with climate change. 

Today we are continuing the journey east to spend three nights in the Snowy Mountains before going to Canberra and then Sydney by the 24th.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Double Knitting Update

Greetings from Adelaide where we are staying with friends of friends, and about to embark on a social whirl meeting all of their friends,,, so, a little break from the usual sightseeing.  

It's about time I posted an update of the laboriously slow but very fulfilling double knit shawl project. 
The green side (the orange pin holds some dropped stitches which will have to be darned in later)
The purple side...
And a view of both sides...
I figure I'm over the half way point, but practically I will finish when I run out of the purple yarn!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Limestone Coast

At Cape Bridgewater, there is an amazing fossilized forest...
Or is it? The Europeans who first settled here certainly thought so. The theory was that a forest had been engulfed by sand, emerging much later as hollowed out trunks. Not so. These are sandstone tube-like formations weathered and hollowed out by wind and water over the centuries. 

(With a wind farm nearby)

Just north of the small community of Nelson, in the Lower Glenelg River National Park is the Princess Margaret Rose Cave which was discovered by a couple of farmers out rabbit hunting in 1936. One of them got up enough nerve to be lowered down the hole by rope, and he discovered amazing chambers of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and shawl formations...

These two men and their families got permission to develop the cave as a tourist attraction, and Buckingham Palace gave permission for it to be named after the beautiful princess (I wonder if she ever visited it?)  They carved out an entrance by hand because of course tourists couldn't be lowered down by rope, and these 69 stairs are still in use today, but with handrails. The cave is now maintained by the park service.

We stopped overnight in Mount Gambier, and visited Blue Lake the next morning. 

This is a deep crater of an extinct volcano and has been the town water supply for over a hundred years. It turns this brilliant blue each summer due to calcium carbonate crystals forming in the warmer surface water. Ground water seeps into the lake from the surrounding area, filtering through limestone. 

The highlight of the last couple of days has been our visit(s) to the Naracoorte Caves National Park, a World Heritage listed site. This is an extensive network of caves, and one in particular, the Victoria Fossil Cave, preserves the fossilized bones of large marsupials which became extinct 40,000 years ago. These are two models of skeletons found...

Animal bones have been dated back as far as 500,000 years ago. This is still a major scientific study site, with many more layers still to unearth.

We enjoyed the visit to the Victoria cave so much that we returned at sunset to watch bats emerge from the nearby Bat Cave. Lloyd managed to photograph a couple...look in the upper left corner of this image...

And the upper right corner of this one...

And the next morning we returned again to the park to visit the interpretive centre, and Lloyd posed with a life-size sculpture of one of the extinct animals...

We wrapped up our visit to the Limestone Coast with an escorted afternoon winery tour in Coonawarra. We visited an amazing 9 wineries, and found some very decent Rose wines and sparkling wines, including a sparkling Shiraz, very unusual. This area is known for its reds, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. As in all wine regions, they make a big deal about the soil. This red soil is rich in iron over a layer of limestone...the same limestone as the caves.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Couple of Days in The Grampians

We had a change of scenery...from the windswept coast with crashing surf to the rocks, boulders and mountains of The Grampians...where we spent three nights in the idyllic peace and quiet of Hall's Gap Lakeside Tourist Park. Well, quiet and relaxing in terms of vehicle traffic, some knitting time, and swimming in the wood-fire heated pool...but raucous due to squawking and squabbling cockatiels, crows and Australian magpies. They're attractive birds to watch but I sure wish they were more melodious! Each night we enjoyed the kangaroos grazing nearby...

The Grampians seem to rise straight up out of the plains of western Victoria state. In this view from the Baroka Lookout, you can see the plains to the east, and the village of Hall's Gap just below. Just below the squared off end of the lake (it's a dam) is the tourist park where we stayed...not exactly "lakeside"! 

We went on several short walks each day. Here are some photos showing the highlights of the vistas, trails, and waterfalls.

The north Grampians were hard hit by bush fires two years ago. It was interesting to learn about the regeneration after a fire. Many of the eucalyptus were burned completely which opens up the forest for new grasses. Other eucalyptus lost their canopies, but were not killed. New growth sprouted from the trunks as "epicormic" shoots, that is new branches of leaves which provide nourishment for the trees while they redevelop their canopies.

The "kangaroo-tail grass" needs stress such as a fire to flower. This is the spent flower stalk from which aborigines used to carve lightweight spears.

The Grampians, known as Geriwerd to the local indigenous people, has been an important place for at least 30,000 years. This was a meeting place where tribes came together to trade and find marriage partners, and it was also an important food source. They were hunter-gatherers with very defined roles...the men did the hunting and fishing and the women did the gathering. Being nomadic, they followed the seasons very closely, e.g. moving to the streams to set up weirs to trap migrating eels or to the plains to dig tuberous roots. Regarding the latter, this was a plant with a dandelion-like flower and the first Europeans commented on how the plains were carpeted in the spring. The women would dig a certain amount each spring, leaving enough to propagate for the next year. Within a year of Europeans introducing sheep grazing, these plants had disappeared. The sheep discovered how lovely and sweet they were. The hard hooves of sheep also compacted the ground, unlike soft kangaroo hooves. The introduction of sheep also reduced aboriginal access to kangaroo meat--farmers killed the kangaroos because they competed with the sheep for the same grass. Thus was set in motion the conflict between European and Aboriginal people. (I have vastly oversimplified the story). This history is outlined in a series of didactic panels at the Brambuk Visitor and Cultural Centre just south of Halls Gap.