Category Archives: Australia

Weekly wisdom – discover the world, discover yourself

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“What draws me in is that a trip
is a leap in the dark.
It’s like a metaphor for life.
You set off from home,
and in the classic travel book,
you go to an unknown place.
You discover a different world,
and you discover yourself.”

Paul Theroux

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Hobart docks Tasmania © Louise Creely

EB in Hobart, Tasmania

 


Surprise platypus encounter

© Louise Creely. All rights reserved.There are times when you really need to knuckle down and get all those urgent things done. But hey, it’s perfect early-Spring weather and a road trip just feels… well, urgent. 

After exploring Toowoomba’s street art (more on that later) and free-camping at Gil Weir near Miles, we’ve arrived at Carnarvon Gorge in outback Queensland.

And if we ever needed convincing we have to explore more of our beautiful country, today was it.

After setting up camp at Takarakka Bush Resort, we went for a wander along the creek that wraps around the camping area.

Darter © Louise Creely

© Louise Creely

The Takarakka logo is a platypus, so I’m pretty excited. I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild.

Whiptail wallaby © Louise Creely

Whiptail wallaby © Louise Creely

We soon come across the ‘platypus conservation area’ signs with viewing benches set up so you can watch for platypus without disturbing them.

But let’s be honest, EB would never make a wildlife photographer. It would require being still for more than two minutes.

So after a brief scan of the water for ripples, I catch up to him striding up the creek!

Further along, we meet a lady who clearly has the gift of stillness (and a comfortable camping chair).

She breathlessly tells us a platypus has just swum right past her, so we wait and watch… and wait.

Finally, undeterred by EB hopping from one foot to the other (doing his best impression of a predator), the platypus surfaces … but promptly disappears again.

Platypus at Carnarvon Gorge © Louise Creely

A brief glimpse… © Louise Creely

We’ve almost given up hope of another glimpse, when there is a rustling in the reeds on the opposite bank. The platypus is actually leaping up the bank to pull down reeds and twigs.

Platypus gathering reeds © Louise Creely

Platypus gathering bedding material for her burrow © Louise Creely

When she’s collected some bedding material for her nest, she tucks it under her paddle-like tail and drags it back to her camouflaged burrow in the creek bank. What an amazing way to start our stay at Carnarvon Gorge. And tomorrow we walk.

Platypus gathering nesting material © Louise Creely

Platypus taking dry reeds and twigs back to her nest © Louise Creely


Fast platypus facts

The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an egg laying mammal called a monotreme.

Found only in freshwater streams in eastern Australia and all of Tasmania, the platypus has sleek fur like an otter, a bill and webbed feet like a duck, and a tail like a beaver.

But while they look cute and cuddly, the male platypus has a secret weapon – a venomous spur on each of his back feet. The venom won’t kill you but the pain is (apparently) excruciating. A good enough reason to keep your distance!

Meanwhile, soon after mating, the female platypus begins to gather dried reeds and sticks for her burrow in the creek bank…

Platypus nesting © Louise Creely

© Louise Creely


Back to Bundjalung country

©Louise Creely

As travellers, it’s easy to focus on the epic adventures and forget that short breaks can be exceptional too. That’s why we went back to Bundjalung country this weekend – to hit the mental reset button… 

© Louise CreelyThe Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park, New South Wales, is tucked in behind the dunes of Ten Mile Beach.

It’s a truly remarkable camp spot, with each secluded site set up with its own fire pit, picnic table and even a clothesline.

It really feels like you’re the only people on earth – especially when all you can hear is the crackling fire and the soothing sounds of the heathland’s nightlife.

Birdlife of Black Rocks

As we soak up the sun in the chilly morning, we’re mesmerised by the vibrant tiny birds flitting among the banksia trees and getting drunk on nectar. Some of the little tweeters even stop long enough for a photo opp! Pure joy right there.

Birds montage 1

So much tweeting going on around our campsite   ©Louise Creely

Sometimes, there are only glimpses of colour and movement. If you blinked, you’d miss the Blue Wren preening his feathers in the safety of a spiny bush, the echidna scurrying across the road, and the honey bee collecting liquid gold…

Bird, echidna and bee ©Louise Creely

A bird, an echidna and a bee – glimpses of you in Bundjalung National Park ©Louise Creely

Along the Jerusalem Creek trail

The last time we walked the Jerusalem Creek trail, we were up to our calves in puddles and mud most of the way – but that just added to the fun. This time, the track is just as stunning – and we don’t need to ditch our shoes. Bonus.

Creek through paperbarks

Twisted paperbarks along Jerusalem Creek ©Louise Creely

© Louise CreelyAlong the way, we pass a bunker built back in the 1930s.

In this and others around here,  soldiers trained to protect Australia when the country was under threat during World War II.

By the 1960s, vast areas of heathland were being cleared – not for farming or logging, but for mining. Rutile and zircon black sands were mined here until 1982. But the heathlands are slowly reclaiming the land.

©Louise Creely

Swampy reflections on the Jerusalem Creek walking trail ©Louise Creely

Oceans of plastic…

The walking trail meanders between the creek and the ocean until they finally meet. This is a truly beautiful place where shorebirds come to rest and raise their young. But there’s a dark side too.

As we walk along the shoreline, I pick up one sea-worn plastic bottle cap – then another, and another. After just 10m, both of us are holding piles of rubbish… mostly plastic.

Rubbish on beach

Oceans of plastic ©Louise Creely

Jerusalem Creek walking trail

And that’s just the beginning. Soon we’ve collected enough to fill our small backpack, and a plastic bag a passing fisherman gives us.

It’s not necessarily wilful tossing – but it does make you realise just how much plastic is circulating our oceans. And it’s heartbreaking.

Finally, we walk the 4km back to camp, carrying our load of plastic waste. Yet, as we walk, we can’t help but be captivated by these wild places – places touched by humans yet somehow triumphant.

Being here is about perspective, after all.

©Louise Creely

©Louise Creely

Read more dragonfly posts about Black Rocks:

Are you ready for a short break?


Mt Allan – false summits, mental games

View from Mt Allan

Mt Allan, in the Conondale National Park, is not the biggest mountain you can climb or trek up in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. But it is long, and steep, and a little bit tedious.

It’s the three or more false summits that do your head in on this 4.4km climb through the steep hoop pine plantation.

Just when you think you’ve made it, you turn a bend in the path and the trail goes on – and up, and up. In places, if you tipped too far forward, you’d end up with gravel rash on your nose.

But we’ve been coming back here for over ten years. The first time walking this hideously steep trail, I cried. The second time I made it to the top without a whimper and only the mildest of whinges, probably because I knew what I was in for.

The third time, mid-training for Nepal, I climbed to the top then down to Booloomba Creek and to the old Gold Mine, then back up Mt Allan and down to the camping area again.

This time, I’m happy making it to the top, still smiling. EB, of course, has always loved the climb – mostly for the entertainment value I provide I’m sure.

Mt Allan Trail, Conondale National Park

It’s the kind of walk where, on the way down, you inevitably meet cranky or exhausted or slightly desperate walkers on their way up, wanting to know how much further, and is it this steep all the way?

Telling them the truth is no help at all, so we just say “Bistaarai, bistaarai… slowly, slowly” and smile with sweaty serenity. Okay, we’re not that annoying. We do say it’s hard but totally worth it. Because it is.

One foot after the other has been my mantra on every climb here. With the speed depending on whether I’ve been a full-on desk jockey lately or have done some hill walks…

Charlie Morelands camping area, QLD

© Louise Creely

Dare I say, the downhill trek is tougher on your knees. But making it back to camp, with that glowing sense of achievement, is brilliant.

This is my happy place: a glass of pinot noir (or three), a crackling fire, the toc-toc sound of pegs being hammered in, the murmur of voices drifting across the campground, the cackle of a lone kookaburra, a blanket of gorgeous stars emerging as darkness wraps around us.

And EB having occasional hysterics as he re-enacts my facial expressions during the climb.

Troop carrier camper

Taking our troopy camper out for a run… created by Frankie 🙂


The Mt Allan Trail is a Grade 4 track – rough, long, very steep. It’s 8.8km return, with a 9.6m fire tower at the top you can climb for a 360 degree view of the surrounding ranges.

The Charlie Morelands camping area, where the walk begins, has recently been revamped. You can find out more and book camping here. There’s also places to swim and hang out (not in winter perhaps), or shorter walks you can take through the piccabeen palm forest or along the creek…

Charlie Morelands Camping Area QLD © Louise Creely

Charlie Morelands Camping Area QLD © Louise Creely

 


Take 5 for Friday

It’s easy to get caught up in capturing the right shot and having the perfect life (thank you, social media). At some point, you might just wonder where the pure childlike joy went.

It’s time to Take 5. So strap on those runners, grab your camera (or phone), and head out the door.

As you walk, take five photos of things that catch your eye, give you joy or just make you feel good.

Take 5 (Aug 10)

It’s not about about being arty. It’s not a competition. It’s about noticing the things that make you happy.

The most important part happens back at home. Look at your photos and write down what each one means to you. Why did it grab your attention? Why did it make you feel good?

Here’s what the pics I took mean to me:

  1. Pandanus palms withstand sea spray, wind and drought and still look great – what’s not to love about such resilience?
  2. IMG_1903This pelican made me smile because it held itself aloof from the other pelicans waiting for the fisherfolk to arrive and clean their daily catch – no begging for this cool customer! Just comfortable in its own – um – feathers
  3. The winter wind was chilly but the salty water was deliciously fresh
  4. You can’t help smiling at Pigface, a creeping succulent that’s a pop of colour among the rocks
  5. Aqua blue water you just want to sink into.

It’s all about taking a trip without leaving your suburb.

Sure, it helps if you live near the beach – but those moments can happen anywhere. Even in your own backyard. Here’s proof from my place…

backyard

Now it’s your turn… Let’s get happy!

 


Historical and arty… in Sydney

Just back from weekend wanderings and writing workshop fun in Sydney. Here’s some of the historical and arty things that caught my eye around town…

Most people were checking out the posh boats at the Sydney Boat Show in Darling Harbour, but I was captivated by the ripples…

© Louise Creely. All Rights Reserved.

Definitely painting this one next!                                                             © Louise Creely

EB had me walking for hours, so finding fabulous street art like this was the perfect distraction…

IMG_1831

Taking art to the streets, in a roundabout way…

Here’s a clever way of interpreting history. It really puts you in the picture…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Nicely interpreted: Brown bear lane (then little Essex street) in 1901

We just loved all the square-cut sandstone and the gorgeous plantings at Sydney’s newest harbour foreshore park, Barangaroo Reserve.

Created on one of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites,  the area had been inaccessible to the public for more than 100 years, until it was transformed into a space for the people and opened in 2015.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The Harbour Bridge from Barangaroo

Copyright: Louise Creely

For me, it’s just a reminder that there are amazing and beautiful things all around us… if we really look.

Copyright: Louise Creely. All rights reserved.

Solid as rock…

 


Hanging out at the Farm Gate Market

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Criterion Street art

There’s nothing better than a lazy Sunday morning in Tasmania. And stumbling across a vibrant farmer’s market in the heart of Hobart city is, quite simply, a treat for the senses.

While I was checking out some street art, EB wandered off (as he does) and discovered the Farm Gate Market in Bathurst Street. What a find!

The markets opened five years ago with just 12 stallholders – and the simple philosophy  that ‘if you can’t eat it, drink it, grow it or meet the producer, then you wouldn’t find it at the market‘.

IMG_1524Now it’s one of the top ten Farmer’s Markets in Australia and it’s easy to see why. If you love fresh produce and delicious treats plus a little local flavour, this is the place to be.

We’ll be living in Hobart next year (if all goes to plan), so there’s no prizes for guessing where you’ll find us on a Sunday morning.

Here’s just some of the deliciousness…

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Magic mushrooms…

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Lovin’ the horse float!

 

 

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Bury me standing? Yes please

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Who knew all that about garlic?

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

All this fabulous freshness feels like France

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

And down the road, you’ve gotta love the winter streets of Hobart


Port Arthur then and now…

Copyright: Louise Creely

It’s been two decades since that gut-wrenching day in April 1996 when a single gunman opened fire in a small, relaxed cafe at the Port Arthur historic site in Tasmania. In those moments, he stole lives – physically and emotionally – and forever changed a nation.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The cafe site has become a peaceful place to remember the 35 souls lost and 23 injured in the massacre…

His heinous act kicked off a push for gun laws in Australia, cementing the resolve of the then-Prime Minister Mr John Howard and his government to make the change happen.

Many Australians have never lived in a time when pump action and automatic rifles were on the streets – and could be bought in a corner store with your milk and bread.

While those terrible moments will never be forgotten here, today the focus has shifted back to the convict era and the former penal colony of Port Arthur remains a fascinating tourist destination.

Copyright: Louise RalphEstablished in 1833 as a timber-getting camp, Port Arthur played a significant role in the story of European settlement in Australia.

But long before Europeans arrived, the Pydairrerme people were the traditional custodians of the land, finding food for the body and the spirit in these wild places.

Over time, their pathways became roads and endless bushland was replaced by sandstone buildings created with convict labour.

The Isles of the Dead where over 1000 military, free settlers and convicts were buried between 1833 and 1877.

The Isles of the Dead where over 1000 military people, free settlers and convicts were buried between 1833 and 1877.

While Port Arthur is renowned for breaking many men, some gained useful skills they would take beyond this place into their life as free settlers.

The penal settlement finally closed in 1877 and, while it became the township of Carnarvon for a while, by the 1920s stories of convict days were bringing in the tourists.

Eventually,  the site was renamed Port Arthur and, over the years, the once crumbling buildings have been beautifully preserved, and the stories artfully captured.

On entry to the site, you’re given a playing card and invited to find your character, then follow ‘your convict’ through the twists and turns of their story.

This cleverly designed interpretation brings their world to life…

Copyright: Louise Creely

art of stone…

It’s a fabulous trip into the past, but don’t pass by the natural wonders of this magnificent coastline. Here’s just a taste… and if you’d like to go, it’s a short road trip north-east from Hobart or jump on a Tasman Island Cruise for the perfect day trip. Bon voyage!

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

A stunning example of tessellated pavement at Eaglehawk Neck where the rock has fractured to create a mosaic tile look

Tasmans Arch is all that's left of the roof of a large sea cave, carved out by the waves over thousands of years

Tasmans Arch is all that’s left of the roof of a large sea cave, carved out by the waves over thousands of years

 


Take an art break… at Tweed Regional Gallery

Copyright: Louise Creely

Pursuit (2004) by sculptor John Petrie at the Tweed Regional Gallery

If you’re living or staying on the coast in the NSW Northern Rivers region and you’re feeling a little ‘beached out’, it might be time to head inland to Murwillumbah for a change of scenery – and to visit a simply stunning regional art gallery.

The Lonely Planet describes the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre as ‘exceptional’ and ‘an architectural delight’ – and you won’t be disappointed.

While it wouldn’t be out of place in a major city, the gallery sits with elegance and attitude in the hills overlooking the Tweed River.

Copyright: Louise Creely

View from the deck…

From Wednesday to Sunday you’ll see an amazing collection of works in a variety of media, along with touring exhibitions of national significance across six exhibition spaces.

The Yellow Room - a plaque at the gallery describes how Ollie painted in different rooms of her home studio, 'following the light around the house as the sun moved across the sky'.

The Yellow Room – a plaque at the gallery describes how Ollie painted in different rooms of her home studio, ‘following the light around the house as the sun moved across the sky’.

And then there is the incredible Margaret Ollie Art Centre.

Here, the celebrated Australian painter’s home studio has been meticulously recreated from photographs taken within 10 days of her passing in 2011.

All that art can work up an appetite, but that’s covered here too.

Step into the Gallery Cafe for some delicious food and bevs, before heading off to soak up the vintage village atmosphere in the township of Murwillumbah.

It’s a perfect way to spend a lazy summer’s day. No sunscreen required.

 

 


First stop, Surry Hills

Copyright: Louise Creely

Last weekend we took a quick trip to Sydney to try out a tandem touring bike (as you do), to catch up with family and, the unplanned bit, to fall in love with Surry Hills.

Located on the city fringe, adjacent to notorious Kings Cross and right near Central Station, Surry Hills was once a bit of a slum area.

Today, it’s a melting pot of cultures, with a delicious retro, arty, entrepreneurial flavour – a happening place that has a village feel and a real sense of community.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Sunday breakfast in Surry Hills

Wander along its tree-lined streets window-shopping, then stop for a coffee (or vino) to watch the world go by.

It’s the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon – and you’re likely to be served by switched-on wait staff, who are easy going and up for a chat.

If you’re keen to see some great parts of Sydney on foot (I’m with EB, so keen or not…) take a stroll past the Domain to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, then walk along the foreshores of Farm Cove to the Opera House, and back through the city to Surry Hills.

Of course, you can always take the civilised option and jump on a train to Circular Quay to catch a ferry around the harbour… but this 1.5 hour easy walk is worth every step.

The ‘civilised’ option comes later at one of our favourite restaurants, Longrain. It’s just down the road from our hotel and a perfectly delicious way to end a great stay in Surry Hills.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Fort Denison is a former penal colony and defensive facility

Copyright: Louise Creely

A swim with a view – a battle ship docked at the Garden Island Defense Base