NOTA BENE

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Tag Archives: australia

July 3, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 6.

G’day possums!

Herewith, the penultimate post in what has turned out to be a bit of a marathon travelogue series from down-under…

After lunch after our morning adventures on our last full day here, it was finally time for some retail therapy!

But not in the traditional sense of mall-traipsing + inevitable food-court submission, naturally; no malls in Kimberley. No, it’s a very specific type of shopping – of just one product. Can you guess yet?

Guys (males) – I’d recommend doing this spot of shopping either without the wife/girlfriend/daughter, or without credit cards or cash. Preferably with neither! For the product on offer here doesn’t come cheap…

The product is… the pearl! Pearls are industrially produced here at Leveque Cape.

It goes like this:

Locals here catch oyster shells, implant inside them a foreign body (I forget made of what), then put the shells into net cages and put them back in the sea. Several years later they open up the shells to find – da, daaaa – pearls!

The meat left over inside the shells is fed to hungry tourists here, and beautifully cleaned up and finished shells are also sold to them once they’ve had their fill of the oysters. Nice little side line :).

Check these pearl-farming pics out:

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Shells…

July 2, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 5.

Time to move from all things on-land to all things just off it – to the more attractive sections of coastline, for we were told the best natural charms of Kimberley lie on or near its shoreline. From Broome (the region’s ‘capital’ if you missed it earlier, also our base) the nearest bit of awesome ocean-ness is up at Buccaneer Archipelago, just under 250km away.

What a place! Countless islands, islets, cliffs, straits, bays, an almost turquoise tropical ocean, and impossible horizons. Wikipedia reckons there are more than 800 islands here. But I don’t get how they can be counted accurately: when the tide is low some tiny islets may emerge; when high – they’ll disappear again…

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Our guides told us (and Wiki confirms it) that the cliffs here are more than two BILLION years old! Back then life on Earth was all still only single-celled, but these rocks already existed!! (Generally, the geological history of Earth – a fascinating topic!).

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But the main attraction here…: the Horizontal Falls.

This unique phenomenon isn’t quite a set of waterfalls, but a feature of extreme tides which can go up and down by 12 meters, causing a rush of water going one way through two narrow gorges into the neighboring lake as the tide rises, then the other way when it falls. Because the gorges are so narrow the effect looks like a waterfall, only horizontal. Bizarre!

Check it out:

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Alas, we were unlucky with our timing. We arrived when nothing much was going on – no tides doing their jig to cause the rush of water. Boo. You could say we didn’t see the Horizontal Falls at all. And you’d be right. Sob.

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[Still sobbing]… But at least we now know that it’s best to get here not on a plane but on a ship, boat or hydroplane and then wait for the tide to witness the full spectacle. And that needs to be done at times when the very highest and lowest tides are to be seen: when there’s a new moon or full moon. For the moon here is key: it and it alone decides the lot of tides – how high, how low, how quickly they rise and fall… This world universe, eh? Truly mind-boggling. (NB: If you’ll recall, this series from Kimberley started with a decidedly lunar theme; nice to continue it:).

With tides a-torrenting and when the moon is either invisible or fully lit, the Horizontal Falls look like this:

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Not far from the Buccaneer Archipelago – about 100km west of the Horizontal Falls – there’s another magnificent maritime marvel: Cape Leveque. Beaches, cliffs and singularly superb seaside sights. There are also unique natural features, like the ocean waterfall of Tallon Island (here).

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An amazing phenomenon! A huge ‘bowl’ formed out of coral around a kilometer across (at its widest). Extreme (10m+) tides here too play a central role: they fill the bowl with seawater when rising, then that water flows over the side of the bowl when falling.

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Most interesting. Amazing what Mother Nature thinks up, if only to impress tourists who’ve lost their way!

Incidentally, we fancied walking around the rim of the bowl. Our guides on the other hand seemed dead against it: ‘Crocs, mate.’ They told us. ‘Sea crocs – they’d eat you up whole!’ We reflected long and hard on this, and after much deliberation reluctantly decided to take their advice and not venture bowl-wards. Never mind; there was plenty more for us to see here…

…For example, another extreme-tide-themed phenomenon…

Huge quantities of water quantity fill up and then drain all the channels among the islands in King Sound. But just how much water are we talking here?…

…Well, the area of the sound (= gulf) is 100×50 = 5000 square kilometers. Multiply by 10 meters of tidal surge… Woh! 50 cubic kilometers of water, if my arithmetic is right at this late hour as I write these here words. And with a width of the ‘neck’ through which all this volume passes at around 20-25km, the resultant natural phenomenon is out of this world: The water gushes past the islands, swirls up into whirlpools, and spurts in streams along and across swaying the motor boat to and fro violently: a white-knuckle ride in white rapids, no less. Alas, this is all unphoto-able.

// It’d be interesting asking hydroelectric pros: 50 cubic kilometers of water toing and froing – is that really quite impressive or just a typical occurrence?

Those prehistoric red rocks are all around here too – those ones that are more than two billion years old! The mind truly boggles. All this is seen and touched and ‘ingested’ slowly. Then the mind just gives up taking in any more as it just can’t (aka boggling, I guess).

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Boggling is always best done before lunch. Then afterwards a spot of shopping is the ideal pastime.

Btw, you can easily get sunburnt here if you’re not careful. I mean: burnt to a cinder. So cover up, factor-up – or suffer. On the water it’s best to wear either your swimming gear or some waterproofs: the waves get quite choppy and spray the deck constantly.

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The rest of the photos are here.

Kimberley-5 already? Ok, just two more, then I’ve got something even more fun coming up: detailed updates to my Top Must-Sees of the World, Ever!…

Back soon my kangaroos!

July 1, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 4.

G’day possums!

Back. In the outback…

The next point of call on our tour or northwestern Australia was the Tunnel Creek National Park, around half an hour’s drive from Windjana Gorge.

Tunnel Creek itself runs through a natural cave cut into the limestone that was once the Devonian reef here under the ocean. Tourists come and naturally walk through the tunnel, which is what we did too. Insider tip: Wellington boots are a good idea. You’ll see why:

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Walking right through the tunnel doesn’t take all that long as it’s a mere 750 meters in length.

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More detail:

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And that short walk through a tunnel was our excursion for the day. That was it. Nothing more!

The creek, the tunnel, the park – all were very interesting and definitely worth seeing, but it just took SOOO long getting to them. You need to either fly for over an hour or drive for four. Still, this is the gigantic landmass that is Australia. What were we expecting?

It turns out there are other unique and fascinating natural sights to be investigate here but, due to the above-mentioned super-sized distances, we couldn’t fit them into our day.

Example No. 1: A further (!) 400 kilometers east (after Tunnel Creek) there’s a place called Bungle Bungle Range in the Purnululu National Park – somewhere around here. Shame we missed it, for judging by the photos on the Internet it looks most alluring.

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Example No. 2: A mere couple hundred kilometers south-southwest of Tunnel Creek is a well-preserved meteorite crater – Wolfe Creek Crater – but that, I have to admit, is only for real space heads. All that way for nothing but a hole in the ground? No cafés, shops, malls, hotdog stands, souvenir stalls? Does look intriguing mind…

Paradoxically on that intergalactic note, I’ll end my reporting on terrestrial Kimberley. Next up: exclusively marine Kimberley.

The rest of the photos are here.

June 29, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 3.

Hi all!

After our first, somewhat tame forays into the wonderful wizard corner of Oz called Kimberely, it was high time we headed to the hellishly hot central part of the region – into the savanna and nearer to the Great Sandy Desert. For there’s plenty to see there too…

Now, if you were to travel approximately 300km to the east of Broome, and for some reason got stranded there in the dry season with no transportation or satellite phone… you’re dead in the water (actually, dead with no water) for sure. Your mummified carcass would perhaps be found after two or three weeks, or, more likely, it will have disappeared already after the termites and other hungry creatures have made an extended feast out of it. Yes sir, for this place is… a beautifully barren, direly desolate, utterly unpeopled and unroaded savanna that stretches for thousands of miles all around.

Hmmm. That paragraph came over a little macabre; and flowery. Let me try again…

If you were to travel approximately 300km to the east of Broome accompanied by reliable guides and with guaranteed means of transportation and communication, then it’s highly likely you’d find yourself in the thoroughly interesting Windjana Gorge national park (here). Apparently, if the various tourist information/history boards here are to be believed, then some 360 million years ago – in the Devonian (the period in which amphibians appeared) – this was where the coastline was, and underneath the ocean waves crashing against it a massive barrier reef was formed…

(Hmmm. Still… too wordy. I’ll have to start getting to the point quicker.)

…Anyway, later on, the sea left the area to expose the reef, which is now a terrestrial rock formation. It’s the ridge here in the next pic, somewhat incongruously traversing the sunny Australian savanna:

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Read on: Deep gorge through the coral-rock…

June 25, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 2.

G’day folks!

I’m back – with tales from the outback

In today’s installment, a bit of narrative, but mostly just lots of pics – both from up in the air and on the ground.

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The landscapes here are stupefying. Endless horizons and beaches, islands, savannah, rock formations, cliffs. There’s so much to take in… so much to, perhaps, paint. Shame, say, Turner or Constable never made it down here.

Rerad on: Bodacious baobabs…

June 23, 2015

In Kimberley, Oz, I was. Part 1.

By way of a preface:

Without looking on the Internet, who can tell me which is bigger: the Moon or Australia?

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This is the first in a mini-series of posts on Kimberley, Australia!

I’d heard a lot about this place. That it’s impressively beautiful, with scenic landscapes and fantastic views. But that it’s also huge, hard to reach, sparsely populated, and has almost no roads. Plus it’s red hot all year round because it’s in the tropics. All that turned out to be true, but all the same, hardly anyone really knew much about Kimberley because they’d never been there. Folks had heard this or that about it, but no one could give me the real scoop on where to go or what to see.

So it was my job to lead the scouting party. We recently spent three days in and around Broome, and now I know almost everything about the place – and I’m eager to share this knowledge :).

Everything I saw and snapped and touched made a big impression on me, so I’ll write about all the main bits in stand-alone installments in no particular order.  If you want you could read them all later and piece the jigsaw together for yourself; it’ll be worth it.

So…

Australia is stupendously massive. The country’s dimensions are around 4000 km from western edge to eastern edge, and 3000 from north to south. That’s almost the distance from Brest on the Atlantic coast of France to the Urals in Russia across, and just ~500 km less than the distance between the top tip of Finland down to Athens, Greece vertically. In effect, the territory of Australia is pretty much equivalent to the whole of Europe.

Australia’s ‘waist line’ is slightly larger than the Moon’s diameter. The Moon, unlike Australia, can be routinely visible to all inhabitants of Earth who, if only occasionally, direct the optical system incorporated into their heads up into the sky :).

But this stat might really shock you: the Moon is almost 3500 km in diameter – which is 500 km less than the fattest bulge on Australia’s ‘waist’!

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Read on: a small town spread across a huge territory…

June 15, 2015

Unexpected and extremely inexplicable sightings.

What are the chances of Hell ever freezing over, or, in the meantime, a cat surviving a short stay there? That’s right, slim at best.

Now, I would have thought there’d be similarly slim chances of seeing a car with Russian ’41’ plates – that’s Kamchatka folks, far-eastern Russia, next to Japan – on the cobbled roads of the Kaliningrad region – right at the other end of the world’s longest country some dozen time zones away. But I was recently proved wrong. Extremely unlikely sightings do occur…:

'41'; must be on the run’41′; must be on the run

Once I saw some motorbikes with German plates on the island of Crete. More than 1000km from home! EH?

And just occasionally UK plates – white on the front, yellow on the back – are to be seen in Moscow. That sure is some distance to cover.

Surprised? Intrigued? Impressed? You… shouldn’t be…

…For this is what I saw the other day:

'Extreme Duty Winch' – on an extreme duty Benz!‘Extreme Duty Winch’ – on an extreme duty Benz!

Yes folks, these photos were taken last week – not in, say, Saxony, Germany – but in Sydney, Australia! These Merc G-Classes were parked up outside the Shangri-La hotel there. Maybe Hell will one day freeze over – or at least fit central heating in the bed & breakfasts there to keep visiting felines warm…

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

So, how on earth – or in (freezing) Hell – did they get there?

On a ship: from Italy via the Suez canal, across the Indian Ocean, around Australia and to Sydney?

Or overland: via Poland, Russia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Papua, and then on a ferry to northern Oz, and then cross-country-desert?

Or maybe the more boring route: via Greece, Turkey, Syria (hmmm, maybe not), Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and so on?

// Or maybe they were just playing silly beggars and put German plates on locally purchased and registered Mercedes? Naah, surely not. The customized bits and bobs added to these vehicles (e.g., the contraption on one of the roofs), all that road (desert?) grime… Naah.

So how did they get here? A mystery. What do you think?  Any ideas?

G’day maties!…

June 12, 2015

Vivid Sydney.

Each year at the end of May through early June, Sydney goes all visually vivid of a night. Vivid Sydney comes to town – a festival of ‘light, music and ideas’ with lots more besides. It kinda takes over the whole city: The famous Opera House gets all hallucinatory, there’s a laser show in Darling Harbour, and buildings and bridges get made over with bizarre visuals projected onto them.

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Read on: Popular means hordes of folks…

June 11, 2015

Winter conference – in June.

In the southern hemisphere – of course including Australia, where I was last week – June 1 is the first day of winter. Down under it’s hardly gonna be all snow drifts, frozen-over lakes and -40 degrees temperatures or anything, but it can still get relatively cold at night. The nightly average minimum temperature at this time of year in northwestern Australia is 15 degrees centigrade, but that’s only the average; in some places there can be night frosts. In Oz!! All the same, by day, hardly wintry in the town of Broome in Kimberley:

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Read on: In the middle of nowhere…

November 12, 2013

Canberra: not your usual capital.

I think Canberra has to be the most unusual capital in the world.

Capitals are normally grand old cities (well, besides Washington, Brasilia, and a few other such exceptions to the rule), with pompous historical centers, town halls, royal residences, mayor’s offices, large central squares, bronze horsemen, pigeons galore, paving stones galore; crowds of locals plus plenty of tourists with their cameras a-clicking. Plus the central railroad station. Plus traffic jams.

In Canberra it’s all just the opposite. It’s a small city of nearly 370,000. Very cozy, very green. In the middle instead of a square there’s a lake. It’s also a very young city – just 100 years old or thereabouts. There are no traffic jams! At all! Ever! From parliament to any ministry it’s just a five or ten minute drive. Parking space-wise there are also no probs at all. There are never that many folks about, civil servants are rarely to be seen on the streets in the center (in the university district it’s a little more lively – pubs and cafes, but not that many). Up above of course there’s the bright, hot Oz sun.

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Read on: finally 404!…