boating bliss

Winter is the perfect time of year to visit friends in Darwin, especially when they own a boat.

No, not that one….this one.

We set off on a sea of glass from Cullen Bay Ferry Wharf

and rounded the headland,

before the hint of tropical houses in the suburb of Larrakeyah peeked at us through the trees.

In the distance, Darwin city cut the colour blue with a swathe of silver and green.

Larrakeyah was one of the first parts of the city to be developed, with the colony’s first hospital built in 1874. It is named after the Larrakia people, the traditional custodians of the land.

In 1869, Dr. Robert Peel, a surgeon with the first survey team, found water ‘…in a gully between Fort Point and Point Emery’. Aptly named Doctors Gully, it soon became a landing point. In the early 1950s, a nearby resident started throwing bread scraps to the fish that would gather at high tide and in 1981, Aquascene Fish Feeding was established. Visitors can now stand in the shallows and hand feed the fish in the waters of this official marine sanctuary.

The Esplanade runs the length of the waterfront overlooking Darwin Harbour and alongside, Bicentennial Park is home to monuments and memorials as part of the WWII walking trail. Lookout Point is a good place to start.

With calm waters and stupendous scenery, it was time to serve drinks and nibbles.

Continuing down the coast toward the end of the park,

the Deckchair Cinema operates seven nights a week in the dry season. Established in 1954, Darwin’s only independent cinema gives audiences the chance to watch a diverse range of movies that would otherwise go unseen on the big screen.

Adjacent to the cinema, Parliament House was opened in 1994 on the site of the Darwin Post Office that was bombed in February 1942.

On the other side of the cinema, Government House is well hidden from view. It is the oldest European building in the Northern Territory and has been home to Government Residents and Administrators since 1871.

At the end of the Esplanade, Jervois Park marked our point of return

as the evening sun cast the cityscape in a new light.

The occupants of this fishing boat should probably have looked behind them.

On the horizon, eight jet skiers resembled the riders of the Apocolypse, fortunately not close enough to shatter the serenity.

As Sol descended,

we returned to Cullen Bay

and another day came to a spectacular close.

happy hens

Our crazy Barnevelder chooks are now nine years old. Two died last year in their sleep and the remaining duo hadn’t produced an egg for many months. We don’t have the heart to despatch them and so, we welcomed four newcomers instead. This time, we veered from any particular breed and sourced them from a local “farm”. I didn’t realise the state they were in until I got them home, many feathers missing at the back end, they obviously had worms and possibly lice. We treated their ailments and have become very attached to these lovely red hens. They are intelligent (for chooks), inquisitive and each has her own personality.

Winter has been wet and dismal, our poor girls have endured without complaint. We took to the internet in search of ways to make life more interesting for them and made it our mission to cheer them up. Having seen videos of chooks playing on a swing, we were inspired to make one. Unfortunately, our girls haven’t seen the videos.

We then fashioned a couple of hooks on string to hang vegetables from (silverbeet is prolific in the veggie patch) and that was a hit, though they make short work of it.

At least the swing is getting some use, for hanging long grass over.

Next came a forage cage so the girls can nibble the greens that grow through without scratching and ripping them out of the ground. Someone was eager to try it out, adding her own brand of fertilizer as a bonus.

We gleaned from our search that chooks find mirrors fascinating, this was more successful than the swing.

So, they now have a playground in the secure pen.

They also have a larger uncovered area that is fenced to prevent the destruction of our garden. We created another forage cage and the same cheeky chook couldn’t wait to check it out.

Last weekend, we added another novelty for them, a chair made out of old fencing posts.

I’m pleased to report, spring has sprung and we are now having more sunny days than wet ones. The forage mix is starting to grow

and the girls have all recovered their health and fluffy bums.

The two old girls are going strong and one has even started laying again.

The ultimate indication of chook happiness is indulging in a dust bath in the warm sunshine.

Pumphouse perfection

As we left Pumphouse Point at the end of a wonderful sojourn in March 2019, we vowed to return for a winter experience. With one thing and another, it has taken three and a half years to realise the promise but we finally made it earlier this month. We had stayed in a room on the middle floor of The Pumphouse that first time, a wonderful feeling to wake up surrounded by water and endless nature. For a different perspective, we booked the Panorama Room in The Shorehouse, considered to be the best room on the property.

Living up to its name, the spacious room spans the entire side of The Shorehouse on the first floor and the huge windows embrace panoramic views across the lake and mountains beyond.

The larder was stocked with tempting goodies to enjoy for a picnic lunch or midnight snack and a hot sourdough loaf was only a phone call away.

Another reason we opted to stay on dry land is, we didn’t relish the idea of walking the 240m flume in rain, wind, ice, snow or any combination of these, to return to our bed in the evening. The inclement conditions that had accompanied our four hour drive abated for our arrival, we could just discern the snow-capped peaks beyond The Pumphouse.

All guests are invited to partake of pre-dinner drinks at 6pm in The Shorehouse lounge before randomly seating in the adjacent dining room. Three courses of fresh, locally sourced fare are served, complemented by your own choice of beverage from the honesty bar. The shared table occasion may not appeal to everyone but it makes for new acquaintances and lively conversation. We awoke the next morning to blue skies and a crispness of air that can only be breathed in the middle of nowhere in Tasmania.

Fuelled for some exercise by a hearty breakfast, we embarked on the Frankland Beaches walk. The 3km track meanders along beaches and glacial moraines as it  follows the shoreline of Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest fresh water lake.

We warmed up with a hot chocolate and Drambuie chaser at Lake St Clair Visitor Centre before our return trek. Viewed from Cynthia Bay jetty, our destination was a mere speck in the wilderness.

Along the way, nature exhibited her artistic talents,

this tree is a sculptural masterpiece.

We assembled a picnic lunch from the larder and settled into the lounge to savour the surroundings as much as the food.

Michael insisted I endure an hour long massage, a relaxing indulgence that wasn’t on the menu when we last stayed. Once I had recovered, we wandered across the flume to The Pumphouse for a nostalgic reminiscence

before returning to freshen up for another evening of delicious food and interesting repartee with a different group of travellers. Our adventure was over far too soon and, even though the gloomy skies had returned, another day or two would have been very welcome. A three night weekend stay is next on the list.

riveting read

Following the success of his first novel, The Tramp, I am pleased to announce the publication of Michael’s second tome. Those who have read The Tramp will recall the enigmatic (deceased) character, Ned Brandscombe, or Uncle Ned as he was known to Samantha and Nicky. (Those who haven’t read it really should). Old Ned’s Secret turns back the clock to share the moment of revelation of a long held secret to 16 year old Samantha.

A further ten short stories, arising from the fecund imagination of the author, fill the pages between the covers. Each tale, plumbed from the depths of memories, dreams and personal experiences, is a tantalising fusion of suspense and humour. The lyrics of Michael’s musical composition, The Transit of Venus, complete the book with a thought provoking epilogue.

Old Ned’s Secret: AND OTHER TALL TALES is available in paperback or Kindle through Amazon in your country.

extraordinary exhibition

Following our experience at Wētā Workshop the plan was to visit New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa (Māori for ‘the treasure box’). We were intrigued to see the ‘Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War’ exhibition after learning at Wētā that they were responsible for creating the life-like figures on display.

The giant sculptures, 2.4 times human size, took 24,000 hours to complete, not surprising considering the incredible detail and emotion on the faces. The exhibition opened on 18th April 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the ANZAC campaign and will remain until 25th April 2025. The diaries of seven soldiers and a nurse were selected to share the stories through the eyes of ordinary New Zealanders in diabolical circumstances. Stepping into the darkened room, the effect of a huge, spotlighted figure aiming a gun in apparent terror was startling.

Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott was one of the first New Zealanders to climb the steep hills to join the Australians. By nightfall, he had been evacuated with severe wounds to his right arm which was later amputated at a military hospital in Egypt.

A cut-through model of a soldiers’ kit shows the little protection they had from external armoury.

The despair is palpable on the face of Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick as he leans over the fatally wounded Canterbury infantryman, Jack Aitken.

The 45 year old surgeon, a veteran of the South African war, recorded the hellish conditions and his disillusionment with the inept direction of the senior commanders in his diary.

The lonely figure of Private Jack Dunn, eating hard biscuits covered with flies, tells a tragic story.

Malnourished by bad food, he was hospitalised with dysentery but returned to duty while still sick. He fell asleep at his post and was sentenced to death by firing squad. Although his sentence was rescinded, he was killed in action a few days later.

The exhibition is also comprised of 3-D maps and projections, miniatures, models and interactive modules. The daily life activity station hosts a realm of surprises in drawers and cupboards.

Lieutenant Colonel William Malone’s detailed diary entries echoed Percival Fenwick’s disenchantment with his superiors and the conduct of the campaign. Inside a replica of his dugout, built according to a sketch made by Malone, an actors voice reads the last letter he wrote to his wife, Ida. The moving epistle suggests Malone was certain he would die in the August attack the following day. His intuition proved correct, he was accidentally killed by supporting artillery fire.

The ‘machine gunners trio’ was recreated based on a paragraph in the diary of Private Rikihana Carkeek.

He and fellow Māori soldier, Friday Hawkins found themselves on the same machine gun team under the command of Lieutenant Colin Warden who was unfortunately shot through the heart just after giving the gunners their range.

Almost immediately, gun Corporal Donald Ferris was shot through the head and killed instantly. As the scene depicts, Private Hawkins took charge of the gun while Private Carkeek moved into position to feed the belt. Shortly afterwards, Friday was shot through the wrist and Rikihana took over the gun before being shot through the base of the neck (yes, he survived). It seems all subsequent gunners were shot and badly wounded.

Auckland nurse Charlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais planned to meet up with her brother, Leddie, in Gallipoli. She was selected for the first voyage on the hospital ship Maheno, bound for Egypt but by the time she arrived, Leddie had been killed in action. She is portrayed having just learnt of his death, four months previously, when her letters to Leddie were returned unopened.

Having survived Gallipoli, Private Cecil Malthus then fought on the Western Front where he was promoted to sergeant and was then wounded in action at the First Battle of the Somme. He is the final figure in the exhibition, positioned in a muddy crater which has been filled with poppies by visitors, some bearing handwritten notes.