Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hey Yogis - watch that weight!

Interesting turn of events ... it is the time of year that we (you and me) tend to overdo the food and drink thingo. Weight gain is one of the downsides of this. I read about how we must practise moderation etc. and continue with our exercise regime (if we have one) and it might not happen! Well, let me tell you it is not that easy. I have some tips that may help if this concerns you. 

  • The 80/20 plan is fairly easy to stick to - i.e be good 80% of the time and indulge 20% of the time - this works on a weekly, daily or even a meal by meal basis.
  • From my grandmother I learned to refuse (politely of course) second helpings of any food - that goes for salads as much as icecream.
  • Small plates are an excellent idea; helpings are automatically smaller.
  • Focus! No eating and watching television or reading ... Zen wisdom:  "With your full mind you form the mudra in your hands ... when you sit, you will sit ... When you eat, you will eat. That is all" (Shunyryu Suzuki). You can only try it and see how it works for you. Mind you, I think friendly conversation is good at meal times.
  • If you can maintain your physical exercise that is wonderful! I find that if I get out of bed in the morning and straight on to my Yoga mat - I don't give myself a chance to think, 'not today ... ' It works for me! 15-20 minutes is all that is needed to energise for the whole day! Start with stretches and move on to asana - you'll find 20 minutes is easily filled. The Five Tibetans give you a real boost too. 
  • Drink plenty of water! Soft drinks and fizzy drinks in moderation.

I hope this is useful to you! It works for me and my weight has remained fairly constant for the last few years (since menopause ...) and this year, since I gave up dairy, it has dropped a few kilos. I read the book Whitewash by Joseph Keon that's enough to put anyone off milk! I don't know if it is that bad in Australia but I've felt so much better since giving up dairy - and I don't get as much hay-fever. I confess to still having a slice of strong cheddar when the mood takes me! (I think I crave the salt).

I hope you have a wonderful time over the silly season and an excellent 2012.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

driving down south

After dropping the LBD (little black dog) off at the kennels in Lake Clifton, we headed for Donnybrook on the SW Highway and stocked up on provisions for our stay in Nornalup. Since we were last there, an Antique Shop has opened right next to the fruit & vege shop! I am a sucker for antique/junk shops but on this occasion I didn't buy anything although I was tempted.

Next stop, Bridgetown (also known as Fridgetown in winter).

At last I found the Christmas Shop (Christmas @ 139) in Bridgetown - I've been meaning to stop there since I first heard about it some years ago. Unfortunately they had run out of the Australian themed xmas tree ornaments I was looking for - except for the fairy penguins in pixie hats; so I purchased two. I left my name and number so they could phone me when the new stock came in. It is the tiniest little shop - more like a walk-in 'robe - and full to the brim with gorgeous xmas things. Sometimes I would like to be more interested in xmas ...

Between Balingup and Bridgetown we could smell the smoke from the out-of-control fires at Nannup. This is a beautiful part of South Western Australia but so susceptible to fire. Bridgetown was nearly wiped out in 2009 but has made an amazing recovery.

On the journey down south we saw few dead 'roos by the side of the road - not as many as usual, probably because the rains have been good so the animals are not browsing on the road verge. You can smell the dead animals long before you see them. We also saw some squashed snakes and some unidentifiable birds. One live monitor lizard ran across the road in front of us - we were lucky not to hit it. I always thought these reptiles were very big skinks but apparently they are monitor lizards. I can't remember the proper name.

The road from Manjimup to Walpole winds through the forest. The light flickers through the trees and that makes me very sleepy. Roland drives this bit now - ever since the time (times) I've fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly ended up in the trees or worse. Rooney's Bridge over the Warren River is a nightmare spot for me - I was nearly wiped out by a logging truck there once. The narrow bridge is situated on a dog-leg corner and there is nowhere to run if a truck comes down the middle of the road.

Rooney's Bridge heading south

Rooney's Bridge heading north.
Strange how the temperature drops as you near Shannon. Shannon used to be a timber town but was all but destroyed by fire many years ago. Now, there is a camping ground and toilets - that's all.

The blue wrens were in abundance at Riverside Retreat. How beautiful they are - sapphire blue (males) and pale blue/grey (females). They are very small and fly close to the ground feeding on insects. They are like sparkling jewels in the sunlight.
Fairy Wren
In the evening, wild mallard ducks came to the verandah door hoping for some food. I couldn't resist and the bold creatures took food from my hand! The second morning, there they were waiting by the door for a hand out! The trouble with ducks is the mess they make - and if you step in it, it sticks to your foot like glue. End of feeding the ducks.

I saw rabbits and evidence of the roos that live in the bush surrounding Riverside Retreat but only caught a glimpse of one, one evening - like a grey ghost in the trees.

Christmas @ 139 phoned me and I've placed my order for the silly season (and I do feel really silly about it). Anyhoo, I think my grand daughters will enjoy the ornaments!

Monday, 12 December 2011

view from Nornalup

view from Nornalup by Eleanor V
view from Nornalup, a photo by Eleanor V on Flickr.

From the hill above Nornalup, looking out over the Frankland River toward the Great Southern Ocean.

Peaceful Bay/Walpole

Peaceful Bay/Walpole by Eleanor V
Peaceful Bay/Walpole, a photo by Eleanor V on Flickr.

Nornalup, a small jewel on the Frankland River.


It felt like we were coming home as we drove through the forest between Manjimup and Walpole. I felt quite teary and was pleased that Roland was driving. We didn't stop in Walpole but went straight through to Nornalup - to Riverside Retreat. What a lovely place! Margo and Don Redman made us so welcome and showed us to our chalet "Promised Land" - the very end chalet with beautiful views across the Frankland River to the forest beyond. Promised Land is named from a story from the Goldfields around Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. At Riverside Retreat all the chalets are named for places or incidents in Western Australia and all have a story to tell. Promised Land turned out to be a comfortable, well supplied little home with most mod-cons including air conditioning.

The drive up to Promised Land
Looking up at Promised Land from the river

There is no signal for mobile phones at Nornalup so the peace and quiet was lovely. Occasionally we could hear traffic on the South Coast Highway but it was never intrusive. The weather was clear and with no light pollution (apart from the waxing moon) the starry sky at night was amazing. It was quite windy but that did not deter Roland from fishing in the Nornalup Inlet. He loves to wade and there is a small jetty from which he could set off up or down the Frankland River. In the event he put back all the fish he caught - which is what he usually does - probably because he doesn't feel like cleaning them!

On two evenings we ate at the Nornalup Tea House which is a lovely old building next to the Highway. Emma and Brett made us very welcome - both of them are Yoga students who often came to class when I was teaching there. The food is fabulous and the service is too! Amazing to find such an excellent restaurant out in remote Western Australia. The secret is possibly that Brett uses as much local produce as he can and the wine is Western Australian too.

When my friends heard I was coming down for a visit there was no doubt that I would take a Yoga class for them! So on Saturday morning at 9.00am in the Nornalup Community Centre we all came together to share some Yoga! As I was doing the 'welcome' I looked at all their dear faces looking at me and teared up so that I could hardly speak! In the event it was more of a workshop than a class and I remembered how delightful it is to teach in country town! Each person was so receptive and I feel I learned far more than anyone there - such is the nature of Yoga.

I'll add some more tomorrow - there is a storm brewing here and I want to turn off my computer now!

Rammed earth construction - a beautiful space for Yoga

'Snow' trees outside the Hall - because we don't get snow in Western Australia
Looking down toward the playground and the Frankland River

Yes, we will be back!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Yoga class

Off to take the weekly Yoga class at North Mandurah Contours. Teaching in a gym can be fun, especially with such a terrific bunch of students! Nice and warm this afternoon so we'll get some great asana work happening.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Winding back for summer

I can feel the hot weather is just around the corner. This week we'll be reaching 36C by Friday (just short of 100F in the old money). The flies have started in earnest and there are already swarms of mosquitoes around. I've stopped doing my early morning Yoga practice under the grapevine - too many mozzies and the insect repellent only works for a little while.

The magpies are very busy feeding their fledglings - most of whom are larger than the parents. The family that live in our garden have one very big chick with an insatiable appetite. His name is Kwocky - I know it is because I heard his mother calling him. The three birds, mother, father and Kwocky were foraging around in the garden and mother found a tasty morsel for her baby. Kwocky wasn't in sight so she ran (maggies often run instead of flying ... not sure why) down the driveway with the food in her beak calling, "Kwocky! Kwocky!" Sure enough Kwocky came running and made his loud "Feed me now, I'm starving" squawk; opened his beak very wide and mother popped the worm right inside!
This is the website on which I found the photos.
So now I watch out for Kwocky everyday. Some people feed the magpies but I don't. I believe it is irresponsible to do so because the birds become dependent on being fed and it leads to all sorts of problems. Magpies can be quite aggressive especially in the nesting season when the males dive-bomb suspicious looking people and animals; they are only protecting their nests but it is scary being dive bombed. I have been mugged by a maggie who was after the piece of cake I was just about to pop into my mouth! I got a real fright and also because my 3-year-old grand daughter was right next to me when it happened. Those beaks can do a lot of damage.
I greet all the maggies in the garden everyday - and also the ones we meet on our walks! "Hello Maggot!" I say, "Hope you're feeling well today?" The birds cock their heads to one side as if to say, "You silly old woman!"

Gardening in the heat of the day is not pleasant with the flies, mosquitoes and hot sun so everything has to be done early in the morning; watering the garden, tending the herbs, weeding and so on. The birds empty the birdbath quite early in the day. We are only allowed to water the garden twice a week with the reticulation. I try not to use it as it is quite a wasteful way to water. Handwatering with a hose or watering cans takes time but at least the water is carefully directed. The fishponds are dropping quite quickly now. The two big fish that we had in the top pond were caught and killed by cats so we restocked with little goldfish - they are very skittish and sometimes we don't see them for a couple of days. Tiny or not, they have started breeding already because I thought we had tadpoles but on closer inspection discovered that they were baby goldfish.

Yoga classes end next week at Contours Gym in North Mandurah where I teach on a Tuesday evening. I wasn't going to start teaching again but find that I am enjoying it a lot. I hope we don't have such a long, dry, hot summer as we did last year ... time will tell.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Paper & Pencil

Paper and pencil are all the go for me at the moment. No email, Facebook or Twitter distractions ... and about 100 half used notebooks dating back to 1993! Library notes, Yoga notes, tute notes, ideas - all part of my 'long drawer'. I sometimes wonder what will happen to all this stuff when I shuffle off the mortal coil ... I hope the paper is recycled!

NaNoWriMo is almost here ... I've found a name for my chief protagonist - Min Ha - probably because I found Trinh T. Minh-ha's books so challenging when I was researching for my Doctorate. And then I couldn't leave them alone ...

Back to the notebooks ...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Writing again

I checked my ideas notebook for some inspiration for NaNoWriMo and found this entry from last year:
"Linley stopped, again, and listened. The sound of her own breath w bollox"
There is quite a lot of this 'stop start' writing going on at present - trying out ideas to see what is going to work. Pencil and notebook is still my favoured way to feel myself into the space to write.

In fact, I'm not writing at the moment, I'm planning the first Yoga class that I'm taking at Contours in North Mandurah ... it is going to be fun! I haven't taught in a gym for such a long time. This is a 6 week course for beginners.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Dolphins and doves

Yesterday we saw at least 2, possibly 3, dolphins in Falcon Bay. Two of them were big and I am sure I saw a small one with them. They weren't frolicking, just gently rolling through the swell, back and forth not far off the beach. As we walked the dolphins kept pace with us and then they turned and went out to sea for a way before coming back toward the shore. They were feeding and not interested in doing acrobatics. Although we don't see that many dolphins off the beach, they are often in the canals at Port Bouvard, they chase the fish into the smaller canals to make it easier to hunt them. 
I found this image here so hope it is ok to use it.
We caught sight of the big dolphin's fin as we came over the ridge and our first thought was "shark". We are all a bit skittish about sharks at the moment since a swimmer was taken, possibly by a great white, off Cottesloe Beach a couple of days ago. He was having his early morning swim. His bathers have been found but no sign of his body.

On the walk home we heard the bronze-wing doves, they are still making their plaintive, haunting noise to attract a mate. The male sits up on a power pole and you can easily see how his chest puffs up as he takes in the air to coo it out. It seems they are territorial and every second power pole has a resident dove. 

This morning, I was walking with the LBD - Roland went fishing at some unearthly hour - and I saw a crested pigeon sitting on a branch.

This is the link to where I found the photo
Such a funny little top-knot!

There are many bigger birds around here, ravens, magpies, currawongs and ibis. The smaller birds are less obvious - I think because so many are killed by cats and foxes. I have seen some silver eyes in our garden and the smaller wattle bird. There is a big wattle bird that lives at the bottom of our garden and he (it must be a he) is extremely territorial. In the morning when I do my Yoga practice on the patio, he spies on me from the grevillea next to the pond. Occasionally he squawks and then swoops over me in quite a threatening way. Funny how the birds like to watch Yoga practice!
The pink and grey galahs and the maggies are often in the Norfolk Pine having a look!

Look at them discussing my style!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

getting into practice for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo begins in a couple of weeks and all my good intentions of practicing writing every day have come to nought.

Some thoughts that are in my mind at present:
Why does the time go so quickly as I've got older? It really races by and I get quite muddled as to what day it is.
Why is it now a risk to ride my bike? I wobble around all over the shop and then get scared I'm going to fall off. This is not helped by knowing that if I do fall off I'm likely to break a bone or two due to osteoporosis.
I realise that nothing is certain; I am only as old as the breath I am taking so the thought about riding my bike is fairly useless.

Is the cold weather really colder and the hot weather really hotter or is my thermostat giving up the spoek?
How come the only doco I can watch on TV (without falling asleep) is Time Team?
If I have time to sit and fiddle around on Facebook, how come I don't have time to polish my shoes?

Is it a good idea to take my grand daughters to England in a couple of years for my aunt's 100th Birthday? I'd like the girls to have a sense of their history and this may be a good opportunity. I have no doubt that my aunt (my grand daughters great, great aunt) will make her century. She is a very determined woman.

Why does half a cup of lemon juice improve the taste of red lentil soup?

If offers me various fonts, why won't the one I choose apply? I was interested to read the text of Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University (June 12, 2005). Apple have always had a brilliant selection of fonts and now I know why. If you are interested, you can read about it if you follow the link. I've always had Macs and only one dud in all the years. The dud machine is still sitting on the floor of my study (the screen displayed vertical lines that eventually took over the whole screen and crashed the whole thing).

Why does the LBD insist on eating cat poo, goanna poo and/or ibis poo at every opportunity and why does it cost an arm & a leg to get her guts sorted out at the vet. She must be almost immune to the medicine by now - and she's learned to spit it out all over me. Look at her, butter wouldn't melt ...

OK, so what is my 50,000-words book about? I have plans but am still not sure if the plans equal a plot and if they do, has it got legs. Maybe I'll just have to wing it on what little I do have. Last year I already had a story in my head, one that I had been wanting to write for years and years. In the event I didn't manage to finish in the allotted time although I got up to approx. 38,000 words. That novel is now languishing in my computer somewhere.

50,000 words in 30 days - that means 1,666 words every day. November is the last month that I can work comfortably in the garden. The weather isn't too hot and the flies and mosquitos are starting but are not too horrendous. This is my conflict and I have a feeling that the garden will come out the winner - unless the flies and mozzies intervene! Writing at night is not an option for me. Early evening maybe but not burning the midnight oil.

If I can possibly bring myself to write in this blog each day until the end of October I'll feel far more confident about finishing the November novel. At least I know nobody has to read this so if it is as boring as batshit, so be it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

More days at sea ... and home again

Goodbye Bali, for the time being ... I'll be back for sure. 

The first day out from Bali Roland predicted we were going to get some big seas owing to a low-pressure area moving into the south of Western Australia. We watched some amazing sunsets. I think this cloud looks like an astronaut - or the Michelin Man

According to the Captain's Log (which I have to use to refresh my memory ... lucky I got a print out before we left the ship), the first day out from Bali the seas were 'Slight' but already passengers were starting to feel the rock and roll of the swell. The Sun Princess "... followed a South-south-westerly course back across the Indian Ocean towards the Australian mainland". One morning we saw flying fish for the first time.

Australian Customs/Border Patrol Officers, who had boarded the ship at Benoa, now took the passengers through passport control. The Princess line must have the best organisational skills I've ever come across. Almost 2,000 passengers were processed with minimum upheaval. The ocean, however, was beginning some upheaval itself.

The next day, nets were put over the swimming pools and spas. As the ship rolled on the ocean, so the water in the pools made waves and slopped out - sometimes making a loud crashing noise. That night we hit some really big swells and all the emergency lights in the corridors came on. Sick bags were placed strategically all around the ship (and were all used up by the next morning). Sun Princess has big stabilisers which were put into action. 

Our next port of call was meant to be Geraldton - 'Gero' to West Aussies - and I think the Customs officers were meant to have disembarked there. In the event, the ship didn't dock there. The Captain explained that because the wharf at Gero was not configured for passenger liners, we would have to use the tenders to go ashore. He said that, while we would probably get ashore fairly easily, getting back to the ship would be problematic. I overheard one passenger having a whinge about this ... 

I took this photo from the balcony of our stateroom on Deck 11. You can get some idea of the size of the swell and how the seas were churning. For myself, I loved the rolling feeling. At night when I went to bed it was like sleeping in the branches of tree swaying in the wind. I slept like a baby (a good, sleepy baby)! I definitely had my sea-legs.

In the evening of the second last day, we rounded West Point which is the western most point of mainland Australia. 

The ship sailed into Fremantle in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I woke up and went out on the balcony as we moved past the Maritime Museum and the warehouses to our berth. I saw all the new cars on the dock, the car-carrier trucks moving in at 3.30am to load them up taking them to wherever it is they take new cars too. There were also huge trucks destined for the mines. I felt so happy to be home and anticipating seeing Kath and the girls again. 

We disembarked earlier than expected. Strange coming home not in an aeroplane - no jet-lag this time; however, it took some days before my legs sorted out that the ground was not moving ... I think I was rolling around like a drunken sailor.

Dean and Lily came and picked us up at the wharf. Lily was a little bit shy at first but soon relaxed and started chatting away in her usual fashion. Feeling a bit sentimental so I'll can it for now.

So that was the end of the big retirement holiday! I'm still working through it all in my mind - the experiences, the people - everything. What goes through my head is a silly little ditty my grandmother used to say, "East, west, home's best".

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I'm loving Bali

Another day at sea, sailing from Broome north-westerly to Benoa in Bali. Once again beautiful weather and slight seas.

The days we spend 'at sea' are quiet and relaxing. The early morning gym classes are well attended. Watching the sun rise over the ocean is a beautiful way to start the day and Suraya Namaskar feels so ... right. Each time we have a day at sea I get to the class early, before anybody else, and have the room to myself for a few minutes. In the class we do some exercises that are new to me and I feel I must remember them so I can pass them on to my own students. Most of the movements I learn are easily translated into Yogic type asanas.

On sea days I read a lot and relax on the deck until the music gets too loud - at which point I retire to the library or to our stateroom balcony, my own little refuge. In the afternoon and early evening Roland and I sit on deck and enjoy a gin & tonic. We have met people on board who have become friends and chatting to them is a pleasurable pastime at any time.

From the Captain's Log: "... we commenced the final approaches to our anchorage and entered the Southern entrance of the strait named 'Selat Badung' ...". Soon after, Sun Princess anchored in Benoa Bay one mile off the coast of Benoa. We went ashore in one of the ship's tenders. Each tender can take 150 passengers and they speed through the water very quickly. Being squished in with so many people is not my cup-of-tea because of my tendency to claustrophobia - but I made it there and back.

As we stepped off the tender there was a gamelan band and dancers to greet us. I felt a surge of excitement to be back in Bali.

My first trip to Bali in 2009, a Yoga and Cultural Tour (if you click on the link, yes, that is me in the photograph!) with my good friend Michele - who has a huge knowledge of Bali, the people and the culture, which she shared with the group. This stood me in good stead during this whistle-stop visit. I knew about the traffic, the hawkers, the exchange rate crooks, how to bargain (well sort of, I'm not very good at that ...).

This was Roland's first visit to Bali; I think the culture shock was fairly pronounced. We shared a mini-bus with friends from Brisbane who we met on the ship; the Balinese driver, Ketut, a friend of theirs from previous visits. Mike, from Queensland, had been a courier driver in Brisbane. He sat up front with Ketut and did some magnificent back-seat driving! Roland was on the edge of his seat most of the time. I had warned him that a 4-lane highway usually carried at least 6 lanes, maybe more. I think it was the scooters that really got to him, especially the ones with 3 or 4 people (including children) riding them. I love to see the elegance of the pillion passengers who are wearing traditional dress and sitting side-saddle not even holding on.

My main focus, knowing that we had only a few hours, was to visit the Memorial of the 2002 bombing.

It isn't really on an angle, that is just my photographic skill or lack of such skill. I find myself teary when I read the names of the people who lost their lives in the bombings. The Balinese leave small offerings in front of the Memorial and there was a loving letter to one of the victims that had recently been placed on the ledge.

We did some shopping, very important in Bali! Roland's sole purchase was a pink stubby-holder with "I love Bali" on it. When we got home Lily immediately purloined it for her dolls to use as a suitcase! I don't think Rol minded too much.

We returned to the ship in good time but because some of the ship's tours had gone as far afield as Ubud, there was some delay with passengers returning and we left Benoa later than expected - not that that was my concern, I was exhausted. Nevertheless, we watched the final two tenders being winched up and secured. There are so many interesting things to see over the side of a ship.

From Bali we headed for Geraldton ... and this was the exciting part of sailing because the ocean decided to show us puny mortals who was boss around here.

I'll continue the saga at a later date (not tomorrow as I have other things to do).

Monday, 29 August 2011

Broome and beyond

Broome, I have to tell you, is wonderful! The airport is almost in the middle of the town right next door to the shopping mall. My friend, Robin, who lives near the airport says she has become used to the noise of aircraft landing and taking off. Apparently there was a plan to move the airport further out of town but the locals didn't want that to happen.

Not only is the airport in town, so is the jail (correctional facility as it is called around here). Sun Pictures, the world's oldest picture gardens, is also in the centre of Chinatown. We sat and had an excellent coffee at a nearby cafe and an aeroplane nearly took Roland's eyebrows off! He has extremely bushy, white eyebrows (for the Aussies, think: Robert Menzies but more so).

First impressions of Broome included a man sleeping under a tree next to the town oval, warm sunlight, friendly locals passing out pamphlets and maps and a group of bronzes that told of Broome's history. The Roebuck Hotel over the road and, oh, a 'unisex' public toilet.

I would have liked those photos to be next to each other but haven't quite mastered that yet. Anyhoo, that is Roland with the bronze of an early pearl diver and me standing next to an Oriental man who was part of the first pearl industry in Broome.

We saw the biggest pearl ever, in a glass case - not for sale. It had a lovely pinky sheen and was, indeed, very large. The pearls, even the little ones, were so beautiful. I have a string of pearls from my mum but have given them to Kath as I'm not really a wearer of jewellery, apart from cheap earrings - the only good ones that I have, have been given to me ... like the silver beauties from Donna.

Robin took us to Town Beach which is where people go to watch the 'stairway to the moon'. We had coffee at the cafe overlooking the beach and watched the tide go out and the mangroves emerge from the water. I looked for a salty but no luck. The beaches are really dangerous in summer with salties and stingers. Even the sharks avoid the salties!

Town Beach is a magical spot. Broome is one place in Western Australia where you can watch the sun rise and set over the ocean. This disorientated Roland who has an amazing sense of direction. For me, well, not knowing left from right at the best of times, I just accept it otherwise it makes me giddy and I have to sit down and have a glass of wine.

We took a drive out to the race course. The Broome Races are big at this time of year. People travel from all over to be there. It seems to me that Broome people know how to entertain and enjoy themselves. 

The dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point were not in view as the tides dictate when you can see them. My toe was really painful at this stage so I wouldn't have walked down to where they are in any case. The colours of the rocks against the blue sky and the blue ocean has to be seen to be believed.

Robin introduced us as 'The Boat People'. Interesting that, although there were over 1,500 tourists from the Sun Princess, many of the shops in Broome still shut at 3.00pm! It takes more than earning a buck to live the Broome life.

Cable Beach is one of the best known spots in Broome. We were fortunate enough to watch the two caravans of camels come down to the beach to take tourists for rides. Some of the camels are beginners and don't actually carry tourists, they are there to learn how to do it.

Driving round Broome we saw amazing displays of bougainvillaea, frangipani and a couple of Bismarck Palms. Roland went back to the ship before I did and I spent a little while with Robin. We didn't remember about visiting the Japanese Cemetery before it was too late but I'll visit that when we return to Broome next year.

Back to the Sun Princess, weary and happy. Next stop Benoa in Bali. Roland's first taste of Bali! Oh my!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

cruising - but losing interest in writing about it.

One thing about myself: I probably should have written the whole blog at one sitting because I am now losing interest ...

However, Kimberley Coastal, York Sound and Prince Frederick Harbour are worth writing about - how amazing to see this remote coast from a cruise ship - the elevation gave a brilliant view of contrast between the red cliffs and blue ocean.

The ship, True North, was anchored toward the lower end of Prince Frederick Harbour. We towered over that ship - although we didn't really get very close. You can see it in the centre of the photograph. My camera is not really adequate to the splendour of the scenery.

The islands and reefs we passed coming into the York Sound have interesting names - Robroy Reef, Maret Island and Naturalist Island on the north-east of the mouth of the Hunter River. It was difficult to take photographs, people kept popping up in front of me and I got some wonderful shots of fat tummies and bald heads. Eventually I gave up and just enjoyed the sensation of viewing the sunset in this beautiful place.

The moon was waxing (full moon just after we left Benoa in Bali). The light of the setting moon woke me up - me thinking it was dawn - it shone so brilliantly. I would like to have photographed it but, in the event, I didn't get to do that although on a number of occasions I stood for ages (at 4.00AM) on the balcony gazing into the eyes of the moon until it disappeared behind clouds low on the horizon. No wonder Roland thinks I'm ... odd!

Now the Sun Princess headed south-west along the coast of Western Australia, toward Broome. We had one day at sea (think NO laundromat, lots of swimming etc.) before we arrived in the Port of Broome "situated on the North shore of Roebuck Bay". For me, I was looking forward to this port-of-call more than the others because my dearest friend Robin lives in Broome and I was going to see her in her own habitat! How exciting!

Broome Pier, very long and spindly looking - we weren't allowed to walk along it but had to wait for buses and coaches to fetch and carry us. We knew we were back in WA when our bus driver had his mobile phone glued to his ear making plans for the evening. There were Broome people fishing along the pier and I hear that the fishing is very good! The tides in Broome are huge - it is a tidal port with shallow water and strong currents. Our arrival and departure was governed by the tides and that meant we had a longer stop in Broome than in some of the other ports we visited. According to the Captain's Log, there was a tidal range of 2.6m during our call to Broome.

I'll tell you about Broome in the next instalment.

Meanwhile, here is another laundromat story. I was walking past the laundromat and overheard two older men (late 60s) having a chat. The one man was showing his friend his Princess Cruises complimentary carry-bag which, he said, "I thought I'd try it out." His friend looked him up and down and retorted, "You look like a bloody old shiela!" OK, not pc I know but it tickled my funny bone and I still chuckle when I think about it.

Eavesdropping is one of my favourite hobbies.

Monday, 22 August 2011

more about Cruising

The Gulf of Carpentaria and the Arafura Sea, I can hardly believe that I have been there! I am going to read Alexis Wrights novel although slightly intimidated by the length - 500 pages - the book Carpentaria.

The Arafura Sea is known as one of the world's richest fishing grounds and we did see a couple of fishing boats (Roland assured me they were Refugee boats but I have his measure ... he is a terrible tease). The weather was beautiful, the sea 'slight' according to the Captain's Log. 

By this time we were more-or-less au fait with the layout of the Sun Princess; not entirely as there were so many dining rooms, lounges, theatres and the like. I kept on forgetting 'fore' and 'aft' and, as those who know me, know, 'left' and 'right' remain a mystery. We made friends with the people on our table and the evening meal became one of the highlights of the day. There were generally 8 of us and we got along so well. Lots of jokes and tall tales from Roland and Mike (from Brisbane) I'm sure they were trying to outdo each other making us laugh. Charles and Janet from Tasmania, Linda and Wills from Western Australia and, of course, Mike's wife Jenny and me making up the table. There were 2 or 3 formal dress nights and the passengers put on their finery. My finery consisted of a lovely top that Kath lent me and my Liz Davenport pants and the earrings Donna gave me. Oh, and my new purple thongs (flip flops) of course (remember I had a sore toe!)

Two days at sea relaxing and NOT doing laundry ... but swimming and dodging the big people ... chilling out and reading. Enforced relaxation is actually quite difficult.

Captain's Log: "After clearing the Dundas Strait in the early hours of the morning Sun Princess transited the Clarence Strait ..." and so on and so forth until we arrived in Darwin, anchoring at Fort Hill Wharf.

Darwin is wonderful! The city is vibrant and so much going on. We took a coach tour and our guide (a Kiwi) and our coach driver were knowledgeable. We went all over the place including the Botanical Gardens. I could have stayed there all day, so beautiful. In fact it was here and not Port Douglas where I first saw the Bismarck Palms that so took my fancy. 

 This tree in the Botanical Gardens conjures up all sorts of stories in my head. I only spotted it as we were about to leave so the photo is taken through the windscreen of the bus. 

Here I am standing by a lake in the Gardens. When we return to Darwin I will spend at least a day in these Gardens.

Some of the things we learned about Darwin: the Japanese dropped more bombs on Darwin than they did on Pearl Harbour. Every year the Greek Community hold a party on the Esplanade for all the inhabitants - free food for all comers! I'd like to be there for that! The Greek Church is painted blue and white looking like it has been transplanted from one of the Greek Islands.

The buildings in Darwin are modern and the architecture is innovative. There isn't much old Darwin left owing to Cyclone Tracey which demolished most of the city at Christmas in 1974. There are a number of websites that you can read; the link I've chosen is the Australian Archives. The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory has a permanent exhibit of Cyclone Tracy, which is so realistic it is frightening. We didn't have time to go and look but that is also on the 'to do list' for our next visit. Also the Military Museum. 

A single day's visit isn't really enough but it is a good taster. Which reminds me, we went to a wine tasting one morning on the ship. I quite enjoyed it but some passengers thought it was a rip off. I guess it was to a certain extent. 

However, seeing so much in such a short time is tiring so I was pleased that the ship was tied up at the wharf and we didn't have to catch a tender. There was a curio stall in the building on the wharf and the woman running it recognised my accent. She had taught in Zimbabwe for some years and was so delighted to speak to somebody from the 'old country'! 

I was sad to leave Darwin but looking forward to the next part of the cruise - Kimberley Coastal. This was one of the main reasons we chose to go on this particular cruise and it did not disappoint.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cruising again

Recap (i.e. things I forgot) and probably will repeat some of the stuff I've already written ...

Sailing through the Torres Strait Islands and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was necessarily slow. The ship, while not huge by cruise ship standards, was still large at 77,000 tons. At times the water under the keel was not very much.

The ship's laundromats (there were 6) were closed for the few days we sailed through the Great Barrier Reef. However, when the laundromats were open I was amazed at how many passengers spent so much time sitting in the laundromat on our deck watching their washing spin around! Needless to say, I brought home a suitcase full of dirty clothes. One thing; I would drop by and see what the launderers were reading - always on the lookout for a good book. The one that took my fancy was/is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery - which I have ordered from the local library here in Falcon. 

In the Torres Strait the ship passed close-by to some of the islands. We saw Wednesday Island and also Thursday Island where there is a settlement and a resort. Apparently there is no Monday Island but an island for every other day of the week. We didn't see any people on the islands although we were quite close.

The weather in Tropical FNQ was glorious and I spent time swimming in one of the pools. This turned out to be more of a 'dodge-the-other swimmers' most of whom seemed to be big and hell-bent on swimming over the top of me. I was about the smallest person in the pool and couldn't touch the bottom owing to my being a shorty! 

The spas held no appeal for me (never have) as I've noticed people doing disgusting things in spas (squeezing pimples for e.g.) so I keep well away! In the event I only swam a couple of times as I preferred to relax on a sunbed - reading and keeping an eye on the scenery. Of course the sunbeds were turned toward the pools (two pools and three spas on this deck) so I had to swivel my chosen bed around so I could see out. Later in the trip, while I was moving the sunbed, I banged my littlest toe again (same one that I broke a couple of months ago) and I must've broken it again as it swelled up and was bloody painful. As a result I wore thongs (flip-flops to those who don't speak Aussie English) for the rest of the trip. My old faithfuls broke so I had to buy a pair in one of the shops on board. I've never paid more than a few dollars for thongs so, for a frugal person like me, it was excruciating to pay nearly $20.00! 

Roland frequented the icecream parlour two or three times a day and is regretting it now ... he put on quite a bit of weight! After I broke my toe he found another walking partner (Linda) so he did keep up his exercise. In the evenings, he spent a lot of time watching and listening to the string quartet. They were beautiful young women from Poland and many of the old blokes on board spent time gazing at them as they played. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cruising Continues, (4)

Here we are approaching Port Douglas. According to the Captain's Log, the Sun Princess anchored approx. 2 miles off the nearest coast in Trinity Bay. Passengers were taken ashore on local boats and ships tenders. The Log says it was overcast with showers but I don't recall getting wet.

Port Douglas is lovely, lots of mangroves and fancy yachts.

Once ashore, we boarded the bus for Cairns. The first part of the trip through Port Douglas seemed to entail passing the resort built by Christopher Skase. The bus driver told us all about how his wife Pixie (or Trixie, can't remember exactly) had the place repainted a couple of times as she didn't like the colours; also had it re-floored as she didn't like the marble ... oh my, how pretentious.

Of interest, this is where, in 2006 Steve Irwin (crikey) - the Crocodile Hunter - died at the Batt Reef, out from Port Douglas. He was injured by a stingray while filming a documentary. 

The road from Port Douglas to Cairns follows the coast. The bus driver was loquacious going to Cairns but nary a word coming back. The trip takes over an hour through rain forest on the shore and beautiful coast on the seaward side. Cairns is another place that surprised me in size and sophistication. We spent a couple of hours roaming around and in places it seemed much like parts of Fremantle. This is another city that both Roland and I would like to revisit one day. The city centre is tourist oriented and the demographic young and international. If we had had longer to explore I think a visit to the museum and art gallery would have been interesting. As it was, there were a number of drunken locals fighting near the train station (NOT a good look!) and we had to retreat into a pharmacy for a few minutes.

I think it was in Cairns that I first saw the beautiful Bismarck Palm and have decided that this is the next plant I will get for my garden. Since we've been home I've seen at least one Bismarck Palm nearby so I know they can grow here - even if not as luxuriantly as in Far North Queensland.

I nicked that photo off the Internet. I just love the blue-green colour of the foliage.

We spent a lot of time at the stern of the ship watching the wake; this is hypnotic and the noise is wonderful. Talking of noise, the entertainment on the deck was sometimes fairly/very loud - and I don't like loud noise so would take refuge on the balcony of our stateroom with a book and a glass of wine. 

The Library on board was well stocked and one of the quieter places to sit and relax. I enjoyed reading The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies (one of my favourite authors). I also read two books by Audrey Niffenegger: Her Fearful Symmetry and The Time Traveler's Wife - both of which really mess with your mind (well, my mind!) I'll be looking out for more books by Niffenegger for sure.

From the Captain's Log: "At 5.49pm once all passengers were back onboard from the last shore boat we commenced heaving on the anchor (don't you love the language ... 'heaving on the anchor' ... as though they were dragging it in manually! I don't think so, I saw it and it was HUGE and green). At 6.00pm the anchor was aweigh, and a Northerly track was set; as Sun Princess commenced her passage inside the Great Barrier Reef toward the Torres Strait".

The following day 'at sea' the Sun Princess continued through the reefs inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and early in the day we passed Cape direction. Our noon position was Lat: 11 degrees 346'S, seas - slight.

I guess this is as close as I'll get to the Torres Strait Islands and certainly to the northern tip of the Australian mainland at Cape York. In the early evening "... we were abeam of Booby Island on the Portside after transit of the Torres Strait ... Once clear of the strait we set a Westerly course which was followed for the rest of the evening, crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria".

Friday, 19 August 2011

Cruising Continues, (3)

Now, where was I? Time for some reflection and observations.

The Captain of the Sun Princess is an Englishman, Craig Street. Everyday at noon he broadcasts his log to the ship. He has a clipped English accent and we've decided he must be a descendant of Captain Cook because he seems to have an adventurous spirit, which becomes more apparent as the cruise continues. He generally follows his update of events with an item of trivia - with a nautical flavour; for example: "no room to swing a cat" which dates back to when miscreant sailors were whipped with a 'cat-o-nine-tails' on deck in front of the whole crew. This made for quite a small space and the lead-tipped tendrils of the nine-tails would bash the unwary as well as the victim. You may be interested to hear that these whips are still manufactured and sold for whatever purposes ...

From the Captain's Log: After leaving Brisbane we "... followed a North-westerly course ... Sun Princess entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park somewhere level with the coastal town of Bundaberg (think, Rum), Queensland. At this point the Great Barrier Reef Pilot who had joined us in Brisbane commenced assisting the bridge team with the intricate navigation of the Reef". Noon lat: 22 degrees 460' S.

Of the 800+ crew, the majority were from the Philippines; however, there were people from Mexico, Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Thailand, South Africa, England, a couple from Scotland, and many other places. The 2,000 passengers also came from the 4 corners of the globe (still figuring out how a 'globe' can have corners ...) but mainly Australians.

Our next stop was Townsville. The ship anchored about 8 nautical miles from the shore. We were amazed at how smoothly the process of taking the passengers ashore was accomplished. The tenders were large catamarans from Townsville. The weather was glorious - as it had been all the way.

This a a view out toward the ship from the top of Castle Hill. You can vaguely see the ship if use a magnifying glass! It is more or less in the middle of the photo ... unless that is a spot on my computer screen. The clearer vessel is one of the catamarans. The drive up to Castle Hill was fairly steep and narrow. Coming from Western Australia we are not used to steep, narrow roads but the bus driver was a skilful driver (and a jovial man) who handled the bus adroitly - apart from forgetting to take in the step when we left ... crunch.

Some of the people we met on board were familiar with Townsville as they had done their military training and/or service there - from the Vietnam War and so on. There is a military base and an RAAF base in Townsville.

Townsville was also affected by Cyclone Yasi and apparently many of the mature trees were destroyed. In fact, if we hadn't known about Yasi we probably wouldn't have noticed anything. What did surprise me (and Roland) was how big Townsville was. I think I was expecting something a lot less ... sophisticated? citified? I'd like to go back one day and have another look.

We returned to the ship in the same catamaran that took us ashore. The transfer was seamless and those passengers with walking frames and/or other walking aids were assisted by members of the crew especially assigned to them. One elderly man who zipped up the gangway in front of us turned out to be 91 years old!

The security measures both disembarking and embarking were stringent. More of that later.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Cruising Continues

OK, so we've left Sydney and spend the next day, Sunday, at sea. We spend the day getting our bearings on the ship; our dining room is on deck 5 and we're on deck 11 (that's 107 stairs there and 107 stairs back again). The first couple of days this is hard but soon we aren't even puffing at the top. Breakfast and lunch we have on deck 14 (no deck 13, sailors are superstitious). Roland discovers the icecream parlour that doles out icecream on demand. I discover they also have delicious peanut butter bikkies. I'm good and limit myself to 1 or 2 a day. I abstain from the icecream as milk/milk products and me are not good friends.

On Sunday while I'm exploring the outside decks I spot some whales and get very excited. As I'm about the only person on the deck this may be considered a non-event. Many of the passengers seem to spend a lot of time below decks in the casino or one of the many lounges. In fact we see many whales; Roland is very good at spotting them and I come to the conclusion that he is seeing non-existent whales because every time he tells me, the whales have disappeared.

We have a life-drill and wander around with looking a bit like Sponge Bob Square Pants while we get a talking-to about not panicking in the event of the sirens sounding. The life-boats are slung up against the ceiling on deck 7 (Promenade Deck) and are used as tenders when we can't dock at the wharf. I found this very exciting and looked forward to being ferried back and forth on these amazing vessels. Here is one in situ. Our stateroom would be almost directly above.

Brisbane is the first port of call and we take the city tour. Very many one way streets in central Briz and we go round and round the CBD. We are shown the high water mark from Cyclone Yasi in January this year (goodbye bananas for the next year).

The cruise down the Brisbane River on a paddle steamer is good fun. Although I thought I took heaps of photos, in fact they were mainly of the tug that had to turn the ship so we could get out of the harbour. However, here is one of a bridge at night ... you can see my hand wasn't very steady!

That's a bit pathetic really isn't it! Best look at these images of Brisbane - not sure what happened to my brain at this stage.

From Brisbane we headed for Townsville, so another day at sea.

Three times around the Promenade Deck = 1 mile; lovely to walk on wooden floors. Roland was good about this and I joined him most days. Usually I went to the gym at 7.00-8.00AM for a variety of classes including Ab workshop, Tai Chi, Body something or other - all of which seemed to segue into my Yoga practice. Lovely to balance on a rolling ship! Keeping up Suraya Namaskar and the Five Tibetans eery day was good for body and mind.


The best advice when cruising came from my sister: "Never take the lifts, use the stairs!" Benefits of this include enforced exercise and not being subjected to cold and flu germs in the elevators/lifts.

We flew to Sydney at the end of July to embark on the Sun Princess - a holiday we planned a year ago. Not our first cruise (that was 35 years ago in the Mediterranean) but a long time between! Good news was that we were upgraded at the last minute to a stateroom with a balcony ... on level 11.

The flight left Perth at some alarmingly early hour; we made it with time to spare, just as well because neither Roland or I are au fait with checking in with nothing to show! No tickets or anything 'official' looking; not so comfortable for a pair of old darlings like us. 

Transfers from Sydney airport to the ship were smooth and we boarded our home for the next two-and-a-half weeks. The logistics of boarding almost 2,000 passengers is mind-boggling but the whole exercise was quick and remarkably painless. We sailed out of Sydney soon after 4.00pm.
Barangaroo Wharf and The Rocks. 

We sailed under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House. The people climbing the Bridge waved at us and we waved back!

Out through the Harbour to the Heads, looking back at the sunset over the city.

Monday, 27 June 2011

catching up on myself.

Settling back into some sort of routine is difficult, mainly because I'm still all over the place. This week I intend to be in the garden (weather permitting). Also a fine time to update my blog.

Yesterday (Sunday) was a good start. Roland has cleaned out the big fishpond and with all the rain it is filling up nicely. We bought some plants which I've repotted and positioned in the fishpond. It is an awkward shape being a figure 8 with two islands. There is a birdbath on the bigger island.

We bought 6 little goldfish and released them yesterday. They promptly swam under one of the plants and we've barely seen them since. When I went out to check them this morning, the pink-and-grey galahs were interested in me! They flew down and perched on the Norfolk Pine and inspected the situation very carefully. We're hoping the kookaburras don't come along and raid the pond. We must add more cover for the fishes. With a regular supply of water and some plants for cover, perhaps we'll attract some frogs into the garden.

The little fishpond is looking good and the marron are hibernating although when I disturbed them yesterday, I saw one peering out from her hideyhole giving me a beady look! She is blue and her eyes are red. Once summer is here no doubt the marron will find the big pond and terrorise the little goldfish.

There are two goldfish in the pond, imaginatively named 'Reddy' and 'Whitey' for obvious reasons. You can just spot them in the photograph, cruising around their territory. They are too big for the marron to eat but I have a feeling that, should there be any offspring, the babies will be eaten.

Roland has taken off most of the shade-cloth over the patio. It was beginning to look tatty after the high winds. Some of it was torn and it had detached from the beams. We're not sure how long the shade-cloth had been up as it was there when we bought the house. It seemed to deteriorate quickly these last few months. I think the grapevine will give us enough shade in summer and the house is certainly much lighter now that most of the shade-cloth has gone.