Friday, May 30, 2014

Criticism Of My Work On Nauru

This comment from Anonymous came through on my blog during my last rotation - one of the toughest rotations I have done.

Wow. I haven't published it because it was posted on a completely unrelated post. But it's a reminder to me of the views of my work by the average Australian. Most reactions show me that a wide section of our community just cannot manage to view the world from someone else's perspective. The reason the work is available in the first place. And the reason my clients are having to endure such harsh conditions. Anonymous reminds me that most people don't seem to consider what the experience is like on Nauru for the people detained there.

My current contract certainly gave me pause when deciding to take it, for the very reason Anonymous has eluded to - a profit organisation has taken on the Welfare services. Sleepless nights were had trying to reconcile this for myself. The protests around the arrangement just before I was set to return to Nauru made me rethink again - I admired the stand the artists had made.

But for me, ultimately, it's about continuity of care for my clients. It's about feeling like I am part of something good within this whole horrible political situation. It's about ensuring that someone who actually cares about the plight of the men I work with is there to be an advocate, a support person, and companion.

Without such support, the men would be very alone in the camp. Their voices for basic things would rarely be listened to. Is that what people like Anonymous would rather? 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Faces On The Donkin Reserve

Spotting quirky street art is something I love to do at home, and away, and South Africa was no exception. My last day in Port Elizabeth before hitting the road for the rest of my roadtrip included a wander over Donkin Reserve, after spotting the space on the way to the cricket the previous few days.

Here on a public space on the hill, overlooking Mandela Bay, was an area reserved with historical and political importance. A huge national flag floats above it, a stateu of Nelson Mandela is prominent, there is a lighthouse, and then there is a sprinkling of art around. It is a revamped space in the city, a result of the FIFA World Cup across the country a few years ago.

These faces caught my eye as a piece of humanity and sassy, as you wander through the reserve. Each showing the strong personalities of the Rainbow Nation, unique, different, and intriguing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Series Leveller At St George's Park

The end of our roadtrip along the Garden Route had us arrive in Port Elizabeth the evening before the start of the Second Test between South Africa and Australia, which was our intention. Chilling out with an ocean view at our hotel, we caught back up with the travelling Waving The Flag crew, and prepared for days of cricket again.

Taking our place in the stands of St George's Park the next morning, the Saffas won the toss and went in to bat - and proceeded to pile on the runs until bad light brought us mercy at the end of the day!

The home side carried on in the same vein the next day, until we finally got them all out after Tea, for 423.  Our horror then continued, as 4 Aussie wickets fell in the final session.

A very different game to the one we had been witness to in Pretoria!

Our evening activities were the highlight of the PE Test, with the first night finding us a crazy group karaoke night at Captains. The next night found us at the impressive Bridge Street Brewery, for tunes and amazing food. A bunch of us decided to explore the hyped dining experience of Stanley Street on a Saturday night, and constructed an amazing progressive dinner along the strip of restaurants open.

The Australians managed just 246 for the first innings, finishing at Lunch on Day 3.

As the band played for most of the final day in the stand adjacent to us, the Aussies were firmly beaten by 231 runs on Day 4. A couple of us actually ducked down the hill at Lunch for a bit of a Sunday session, which was very difficult to leave and watch the end of the match live!

Final drinks were had overlooking the empty ground from the Members Stand, as we all contemplated the status of a very alive test series.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just One Fifth Of The World Visited

This year I have added two new countries to the map for my annual Visited Countries post, by visiting, collecting a stamp in my most treasured possession - my passport - slept the night, spent the currency and seen a touristy thing.

visited 46 states (20.4%)

So that's 20% of the world's countries I have been to! Just a fifth of the whole world!

This past 12 months, I have added Nauru and mostly recently, Tonga. Two Pacific islands, which not too many people get to!

I also went back to New Zealand, and toured around South Africa again.

What about you, beloved reader? How many places does your version of the map show? Share with me in the comments below!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Garden Route

The true Garden Road is from George up until just before Port Elizabeth, along the South African East Coast. The stretch of road gives you mountain views on one side of the road, and for much of the way, sweeping white beaches and lapping ocean on the other. It is easy to see why it is labelled the most gorgeous roadtrip in the world!

Once we got onto N2 from our jaunt down the Cape, we realised that we would not quite start onto the famed Garden Route that first day of our roadtrip, based on the time. We started anticipating our location for nightfall, and pulled into Swellendam to find somewhere to stay for the evening.

Coming out of Swellendam in the morning with daylight, we discovered we were facing a great big mountain range, which was hidden the night before under the cover of darkness. From here, we followed the mountains on one side to eventually return to also having seaviews on the other.

We drove into and through each big town that appeared on the passing road signs, to have a look. We saw lighthouses, beach getaways, and regular cities. Then Wilderness came up.

I was keen to try and get lost in Wilderness, just to say we did, but upon dropping into the Tourist Information Centre, we discovered there actually was a lot we wanted to see!

We found the way through the bushland to get a vantage point of the Map Of Africa - a bend in the river below that actually looks like the continent. From this spot we also watched several skydivers take off from the mountain, and float down to the beach far below.

We then returned to the N2 with the wish to find somewhere beautiful for lunch. Knysna did not present anything for us and this desire, but Plettenburg Bay delivered!

Laura spotted a sign for a lunch spot, and we could not have asked for better - a great meal on the water's edge, with the mountains as the backdrop. Stunning white sand,

So many of the roads along this path were spectacular - sweeping views, breathtaking drops between mountains, steep climbs. And the very random abundance of pine and gumtree plantations!

We also got many laughs out of trying to pronounce the many town names along the way!

So impressed with this drive, I took the chance to do the return trip back to Cape Town along the same way, stopping at the places that stood out for me most the first time. This meant more time in Plettenburg Bay and Wilderness, which were both stunning spots for opposite reasons - one being the beach views, and one being the lush forest and sense of remoteness.

The Garden Route lived up to the hype for me, and with the knowledge that I only got to see some of the many treasures it holds along the towns along the way, there still remains a desire to return and do it again. I am sure I would never tire of exploring this roadtrip!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Melbourne BookCrossing Convention 2014

I have been neglectful of reading for pleasure and in my BookCrossing activities, since my studies consumed all possible free time. But knowing that the International Convention was coming up, I had my eye on the schedule, in addition to my own travel commitments, and they managed to pair up a little to allow me to touch base with the old crew. Even if it was just for an evening.

I happened to be in Melbourne as the Convention was getting started, and managed to attend the Thursday night pre-event event before needing to head off and prepare to go to work again.

The event was a showcase of quirky Melbourne, being Barefoot Bowls. Held at the Thornbury Bowling Club, as I arrived the rest of the attendees were spilling out of a mini-bus after their day trip to the Yarra Valley, and the unpredictable Melbourne drizzle started. Loads of familiar faces, and some new ones, I was greeted like a long-lost member, and quickly pulled into the fold.

The bowls were taken seriously at the start, with a coach from the Club invited along to teach us the ways to roll and the tips for competitive sparring. Once out under the lights and light rain, our group proceeded to just have fun with the big game of bocce, with a lot of laughs.

Dinner was impressive, with kangaroo skewers to show off the Aussie fare to the International guests among the group, as well as a full BBQ. A tower of old-school cupcakes had been made for the event by one of the Club’s long serving members, which was so cute!

Attending this pre-event of the main event, with a small section of the attendees, reminded me of the community around the Melbourne group, and has sparked a desire to reignite my love of reading and book littering again!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Good Hope And The Ocean Road

Hitting the road from Cape Town in our little hire car, Laura and I set out to take in the Garden Route, always labelled the most spectacular roadtrip in the world. But before we got to the section dubbed the Garden Route, we drove the Cape and frankly wondered how the Garden Route could top this stretch of beach and mountains and roads along cliff faces.

Making our way through little beachside towns, we navigated through Camps Bay and got to take in the South African 12 Apostles, part of the extended mountain range originating from Table Mountain, and appearing with 12 pillars within the ocean-facing section. Albeit, shrouded in cloud when we saw it, we could still count out the 12 as the clouds and sun would allow us to see.

The roads winding along this stretch were spectacular - the colours of the bays to the right, and the edge of the mountain range directly by the passenger window on the left. Driving on land's edge was hairy at times, but mainly because I wanted to take in the view too!

Taking our time, we kept following the road to get down to the Cape Of Good Hope. Stepping out into the hot sun, and blustering wind once we were within the National Park grounds, we waited patiently behind the tourist throngs to get a photo at the most South-Western point of Africa each.

As we headed away from the Cape, we spotted some colourful beach boxes along Muizenburg, which called out for a photo stop too.

We then put the foot down, and concentrated on getting to the actual Garden Route, and the task of finding more sensational scenery than we had just seen - seriously doubting that that was possible!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Words To Go – Tips And Inspiration

A gaggle of bloggers was invited to Adelaide for an event within Tasting Australia, to chat about food and travel and social media and photography. A lot of networking, loads of great tips and words of wisdom, and a host of amazing photos were shared across the forum, and the following day of touristing, as part of Words To Go 2014.

The forum was held in the kitchen of the Adelaide Central Market, and after being greeted at the airport and catching a much needed night of sleep, I joined the group early on the Monday morning, ready to be inspired. There were some impressive speakers on the agenda, and within the gathering.

Follow Your Heart

Lauren Bath, Australia’s top Instagrammer, who now does it for a living, talked about focussing on what interests you, shooting for yourself. She has learnt photography through her IG, and now does it for various tourism boards around the world, among other clients.

Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia fame also talked about blogging for herself. She spoke about how the discovery of a place when travelling can be very personal, and discussed that discovering a new place is really about finding how that place along your travels speaks to you.

YTravelBlog’s Caz spoke about setting outlandish goals, and to never let anyone tell you that cannot do something. To find the thing that you love – travel for her and her family – and do that. It feeds her soul.

The amazing Katie Quinn Davies from What Katie Ate told us she was an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person, and that she too advised to put everything into what you do – which is what she does. Focus too on the incidentals, the details.

Get Amongst the Locals

Robyn and her partner David Hagerman, photographer for Eating Asia, spoke about visiting a market in a new place as a starting point. They both spoke about standing back and observing, to watch a place, and to wait for things to happen. Robyn spoke about lingering over a meal or a coffee to watch – watch what the locals are eating, how they are eating, who pays, who makes the decisions, are they sharing or having individual dishes. Sit and watch what goes on, to really learn about a place.

David spoke about how food is a window into different cultures. The people behind the food, and how they interact with their environment, how they tell the story of a new place.

Robyn also told us all to say yes to unexpected encounters when travelling, and that a traveller and photographer needs to leave themselves open to things. Like being invited to a local’s home for a meal, for example, which we would never do at home.

Robyn introduced the idea of following a particular thing around a destination – focus on an ingredient, for example, from the market, and then follow how it is used, sold, eaten, grown. This gives a new places an added life, and an added very real story. She also talked about giving into your obsessions, about taking photos of a particular thing. Go with it!


I hope Lauren gets a cut of the download volume on SnapSeed, because she shared this phone app with us as her number one way of editing and improving her raw photos, and I am pretty sure the majority of the forum downloaded it there and then. It’s really great!

David spoke of getting an overview photo of where you are at, and then to capture specific moment shots, before getting down to elegant detail shots. He talked about using people in the photos, to bring the scene to life. Start with people, he quipped, and the rest becomes more interesting. Being mindful of the background of your target, composing back to front. David also talked about how he interacts with people to be part of the shot, with such amazing results.

We were treated to an array of photo examples throughout these talks, which inspired us all even more. Our later walk through the market displayed many of the tips that were shared!

Along with the tips and invaluable blogging, travelling and photography advise, I met some awesome fellow bloggers, such as Maureen from Orgasmic Chef, and Tania from My Kitchen Stories. I got to catch up with Nicole from Bitten By The Travel Bug, and share recent travel stories with Jenny from A Taste Of Travel. I also met Sam from Travelling King, Heike from But It Tasted Good and Aga of A Matter Of Taste. Plus I have a new list of other blogs to read and discover!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Panorama Drive

Coming out of Kruger National Park, we were told we were off to the Panorama Drive as the route back to the city and the airport – and the sights actually lived up to the name! Sweeping landscapes of waterfalls, and canyon valleys were breathtaking! South Africa was so full of surprises!

This region is actually the Mpumalanga area, and it is dotted with spectacular stops and views. We saw just a couple of them on our return drive.

God’s Window was the first destination on this roadtrip back to Johannesburg, after a full breakfast stop at Graskop. This viewing point was the first glimpse of the Blyde River Canyon, and went on and on and on. The green, lush tropical-like foliage all across the valley is said to remind people of the Garden of Eden, hence the name of this viewing stop. Looking across the Lowveld, the mountains and valleys seemed to go on forever.

Lisbon Waterfalls were next on our drive. This is the longest, and most voluminous waterfall in South Africa, mainly because the lip of the falls is so wide. It's the highest in this region, at 94m, and pretty spectacular.

It also appeared out of nowhere, with the backdrop to this rocky shelf being a sheep paddock - a very rural, and ordinary scene.

The third largest canyon in the world, another vantage point within the Blyde River Canyon was the spot of the Three Rondavels - although our driver Eddie had just referred to it as the Green Canyon, after the vast Drakensberg Range coverage as far as the eye could see.

This breath-taking valley, with the Blyde River meandering through it and included the mass of the Blydepoort Dam below. It seemed to come out of nowhere, as the road had weaved along the outskirts of these mountain tops for sometime before we got to the viewing point. Rock formations making the unique shapes of each mountain-top and visible sediment layers which actually looked like a graffitied walls of colour, the mountain range went on and on, and was incredibly beautiful.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

A Couple Of Footy Games

I just know already that I am not going to get along to many AFL games this year, because of my FIFO work schedule and loads of travel planned, so in the last respite break at home I have absorbed as many games on TV as I could and also went along to two of the Hawks' games.

The first game of the season I found out the result from another worker in the centre, as a result of wearing my Hawks hat as part of my everyday outfit. The next game I stayed back at the internet room again at work and nervously watched the score tick over, with a close win at the end.

For Round 3, I was home, and at the MCG, rugged up against the cold. The match was the 2013 Grand Final rematch, and the occasion when Hawthorn got to unfurl the Premiership Flag from the previous year.

Disappointingly, the match did not live up to the hype of the rematch, and the Hawks' might blew Freo away this time.

To get to work for each rotation, I am flown from Melbourne to Brisbane before the early morning flight the next day. As chance would have it, the Hawks played the Gold Coast on the Saturday night before my last rotation, Round 4, and I requested an earlier flight to get me there in time for the match.

A train over to the Gold Coast from my airport hotel in Brisbane was pretty easy, albiet and hour long, to get me to Metricon Stadium. The Suns have lots of activities going on around the ground before the match, and I was impressed at the swarm of followers this start-up club has attracted.

Again the Hawks proved too good, blowing the Suns out to a 99 point thrashing. I have seen the Hawks in some incredible form!

In the middle of my work shift was the timing for the Round 5 match, and I stayed back writing reports to watch the heart-hurting end to that match. The Geelong rivalry continues!

The next match I was in flight, getting back to Australia, and learned the score when I landed back in Brisbane. For yesterday’s match I was away at a tropical island getaway for a much needed rest, with limited internet – but got an update at regular intervals, and also a photo of the conditions from the MCG from one of my sisters, and I was more than happy to be where I was!

The Hawks are doing very well so far! Looking forward to scheduling in a few more matches for the season, around my crazy travels.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Safari At Kruger National Park

Up close to the wilds of elephants, leopards, lions and herds of cheeky impala in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is something for every traveler’s wanderlust list – and an unforgettable and frankly unbelievable experience.  Spotting flocks of guinea fowl, a chameleon, birds of all kinds, and mammoth rhinos right alongside your vehicle as they go about their day was a delight at every amazing moment.  

Laura did all the research, and it was spot on. She was picked up from the Jo’burg airport upon her arrival, and then Outlook Safari also picked me up from my Pretoria hotel, and we were on our way up the highway to Kruger. We arrived in the heat of the day, where we had lunch in the main touristy area of our Skukuza camp, before being shown to our hunt.

We had time for a nap and a swim, before our Sunset Safari, which was when we managed to see all five of the Big Five. Incredible! And so, so lucky, first roll of the dice for wild animal spotting!

Still pinching ourselves at our experience, we were taken to the dining area of Outlook Safari, the only tour company with these facilitates in the Park itself.  Joining the group who had been here for the day safaris, we swapped stories over a delicious three course meal and wine.

The next morning, early, early, we were joined by just one other traveller for coffee in the pre-dawn light.  Debbie, our Zimbabwean tour guide and animal lover, drove us out in our safari truck to spot more game. It was clear from the very beginning that Debbie is one of those people who truly loves her job, and loves sharing the magic of Kruger with people – she told us stories all along the way, answered a million questions, and stopped for every bird and animal, and still-rock that looked like an elephant, at every request.

Families of lions, and then families of elephant was our morning and afternoon treat – with cute impala amazingly becoming an every other minute view. The brilliance of the black and white Zebra, and the luck of seeing a hippo out of the water. Kudu and their beautiful ears and inquisitive faces, huge buffalo by the water, and then a cluster of baboons doing all sorts of things around the vehicle. No giraffe though, at this point!

Many of the other trucks on the road swarmed in packs, chasing the sight of the same thing, radio information about a spotting was apparently bounced across the airwaves. Debbie was all about opportunity and the natural being of the animals, and respecting their space, which we loved. She stopped to chat to other drivers to get tips, and pass on tips, as her friendly nature was evident and respected.

Another three course meal awaited us after our prolonged afternoon drive, as we met the new arrivals into camp, who talked of nothing but seeing giraffe at every metre on their drive into the Park.

The final drive out of the Park the next morning of our 3 day/2 night experience was with our driver that would take us back to Jo’burg airport, and he was tasked with the responsibility of finding the one animal we hadn’t yet seen - the elusive giraffe! No pressure!

Zebra and impala were spotted, and I think all three of us were starting to prepare for not seeing the long-necked animal of Africa. Our driver started asking more vehicles, and getting a tip from another truck, took a detour from our intended direction for the day, to a back trail to find three gorgeous giraffe, twinning their necks with each other, playfully fighting, and eating from high up branches. So incredible! Our safari was complete!

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