Postcard of the week – Hawkesbury

Smiths Creek, a tributary of Cowan Water, itself a tributary of the Hawkesbury River

Smiths Creek, a tributary of Cowan Water, itself a tributary of the Hawkesbury River

I was eagerly anticipating the television mini-series of Kate Grenville’s bestselling novel The Secret River, a story of conflict between the First Australians and early European settlers, which recently aired on the ABC, both to see how the story played out on the small screen, but mostly to see the beautiful scenery of the Hawkesbury River, around which the story is set.

Unfortunately, the remaining pristine bush along the Hawkesbury is pretty inaccessible to film crews, so much of the filming took place on Lake Tyres, near Lakes Entrance in Victoria. However, there were some aerial shots of the Hawkesbury, a magnificent river that flows into Broken Bay. I spend a lot of time boating on Cowan Creek, a tributary of the Hawkesbury, which is cocooned in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, so I’m familiar with the rugged sandstone country that featured so strongly in the book. This picture of Smiths Creek, a tributary of Cowan Water, is taken from a lookout on the road to Cottage Point, the only pocket of residential land inside Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. There are numerous bush walks within the park, including many beside the water, which give a feel for the country of the Dharug people and hints at how difficult life must have been for the early settlers to the area.

More: If you’d like to do a tour of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, you might like to read my story on Sydney Out Back which combines bush walks and boating.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Hawkesbury Tourism

Hills, Hawkesbury & Riverlands Tourism 

Posted in Australia, Hawkesbury, National Parks, Postcards, Sydney, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Product Review: Lightweight seat pad for hiking (no more wet bum)

It’s no fun hiking with a wet butt, and while my bum might look big from behind, the padding is in all the wrong places when it comes to perching on a rocky ledge, which is why I’m in love with the Knalla Seat Pad from Ikea.

Lunch in the bush is a lot more comfortable with  the Seat Pad.

Lunch in the bush is a lot more comfortable with the Knalla seat pad from Ikea.

Who knew Ikea stocked hiking gear, or tramping gear, as the Kiwis call it? I certainly didn’t. I just stumbled upon it during my annual pilgrimage to Ikea for things I didn’t know I needed, but now can’t live without. The seat pad is not just for hiking though, it would come in handy when travelling on un-padded public transport seats, like those found on local trains in Asia, and it would definitely make sitting on cold hard concrete or steel seats at kids sports venues a little more bearable.

Knalla seat pad looks like a tablet case when folded.

Knalla seat pad looks like a tablet case when folded.

Why am I so excited about this seat pad? Because it weighs nothing, folds in half to the size of an iPad and looks as sleek tablet case. AND it only costs $5.99 ($4.99 if you’re an Ikea family member). This has to be the best value comfort-travel item I’ve ever bought.
The base material is EVA plastic and its spongy texture softens even the rockiest surface. The outer layer – the part you sit on – is black polyester fabric. It all wipes clean and the size and shape allows you to slip it easily into a backpack.

The underside is made from lightweight EVA.

The underside is made from lightweight EVA.

It won’t keep the ants from your pants if you accidentally plonk it down next to a nest, but it will certainly keep your pants dry when the ground is wet and keep the rocks from jabbing you in your sensitive parts. Considering you won’t even feel the weight in your pack, it’s definitely a winner in my book.

Ikea Australia

Disclosure: I paid for this product and my opinions are honest and unbiased. 

Posted in Travel, Travel Accessories & Gadgets, Travel Gifts | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Postcard of the week – Magnetic Island

Sunset Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Sunset Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

How gorgeous is this sunset, taken at from Nobby Point on Magnetic Island a few years ago? I just love the golden colour of the sky and the viscous texture its reflection gives to the water. There are some rustic timber deckchairs at Nobby Point for the sole purpose of sitting back and watching the view, especially at sunset.

Magnetic Island lies about eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville, Queensland, in the middle of the Australian Great Barrier Marine Park. It has a very laid-back, old-world beach community feel, which is not surprising, as it has 23 beaches and bays. Two-thirds of the island is national park, so there are some great walks to do too. You don’t need a car to get around, as a bus services the four residential bays, but it’s enormous fun to hire a Mini Moke and blat about with the wind in your hair.

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National Anzac Centre

It’s not widely known, even in Australia, that the first Anzac fleet, made up of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, departed Australia from King George Sound, near Albany on Western Australia’s southern coast, bound for the First World War.

National Anzac Centre, Albany, Western Australia

National Anzac Centre, Albany, Western Australia

The convoy of Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) ships from around Australia and New Zealand assembled in relative secret within the harbour before departing on 1st November 1914, initially not knowing they were bound for the Middle East.

“It was the coming together of the forces from Australia and New Zealand for the first time,” says Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, National RSL president, “Really it was the beginning of the word Anzac.”

Of the 41,000 troops that left from King George Sound, one third would never return.

View from the National Anzac Centre.

View from the National Anzac Centre.

The National Anzac Centre, high on a promontory overlooking Ataturk Entrance, through which the ships departed, was built to honour the Anzacs from the First World War and opened on the centenary of the fleet’s departure, on 1st November 2014.

It is a superb museum, from the stunning location, with huge picture window framing the view of Ataturk Entrance, to the expertly curated content. The collection of artefacts, images, film, audio and use of multi media offers a deeply personal connection to the servicemen and women, their horses, war correspondents and photographers.

Most poignant is the way in which all visitors assume the identity of one of 32 Anzacs and follow their personal war experience, from recruitment through to post-war – for those that returned.

Visitors can assume the identity of an Anzac.

Visitors can assume the identity of an Anzac.

It is a deeply moving experience, one which brought tears to my eyes on more that one occasion.

So if you are visiting Western Australia, it is definitely worth a trip to the museum. It is well-designed museums such as this that ensure the first Anzacs will always be honoured and remembered.

Lest we forget.

The National Anzac Centre is located within Albany Heritage Park.

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Postcard of the week – Faces of Myanmar

Faces of Myanmar

Faces of Myanmar at Ahara Thuka market

How beautiful are these faces of Myanmar? Open, inquisitive, intrigued, bemused, and for the little guy on the left, perhaps a little bewildered at us and our cameras. I visited Myanmar (formerly Burma) for the first time recently and was touched by the genuine warmth and friendliness of the Burmese people. Tourism is still in its infancy here and the locals are as intrigued by foreigners as we are interested in them. Beaming smiles from faces painted with thanaka, the traditional sunscreen/makeup, greeted us at Ahara Thuka market outside the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw, where I captured this group of children looking after each other.  The market was bustling with industrious families working together and offered and window in the life of the hard-working rural community.

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Free accommodation on Sydney’s Pittwater

Fancy a weekend getaway in the bush free of charge, staying at a historic property overlooking Pittwater’s Morning Bay? Spend your free time watching the local wildlife, hiking through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, kayaking the bays or just  relaxing in the bushland setting.

Pittwater YHA

Pittwater YHA

Pittwater YHA is offering two night’s free accommodation in return for a bit of ‘envirofun’, aka two mornings of bush regeneration. But the rest of the weekend is yours to explore or relax and there are plenty of options, like paddling around Morning and Lovett Bays; hiking to lookouts, Aboriginal engraving sites and waterfalls; or just relaxing on the deck taking in the stunning views.

For a minimal $20 contribution they’ll provide two morning teas, two BBQ lunches, two dinners and free use of kayaks. Now that’s a generous offer!

Perched among the trees on a cliff overlooking Morning Bay, formerly known as Towlers Bay, the property can only be accessed by ferry from Church Point or by hiking or mountain biking in from West Head Road (on Towlers Bay track) in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Bush regeneration group

A previous bush regeneration group

The hostel was originally built as a family home by dentist Charles Hall in the 1920s and was later purchased by Ebena  Isles around 1959 and named Bensuta after an Indonesian friend told her it meant ‘full of good things’. As an early YHA member Ebena had visited the original Pittwater hostel, on the opposite side of the bay, several times. When the National Parks and Wildlife Service acquired and then demolished that building, Ebena donated her home to the YHA and it has been a hostel since 1967.

The bush regeneration weekend offers a fantastic opportunity to stay in a unique Sydney location while giving back to the environment. I hope to attend one of the weekends if I can.

Dates: 15-17 May and 28-30 August. If you can’t come for the whole weekend, you can come for Saturday or Sunday morning bush regen and enjoy morning tea, BBQ lunch and a kayak. More details are available here.

Bookings essential. Phone 02 9999 5748 or email A $50 non-refundable booking fee applies, with a $30 refund on arrival.

Details on how to get to Pittwater YHA can be found here.

YHA Australia is part of the world’s largest backpacker accommodation network, Hostelling International (HI), providing more than 4,000 YHA hostels in 90 countries around the world.

Posted in Accommodation, Australia, Sydney, Travel, Volunteering | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Postcard of the week – National Thai Elephant Day

Two baby elephants at play at the Elephant Nature Park

Two baby elephants at play at the Elephant Nature Park

I’m a little late, but March 13 is National Thai Elephant Day, so I thought I’d post this picture I took several years ago at Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation centre in Chang Mai, Thailand. The centre provides a sanctuary for elephants rescued from distressing situations and relies on volunteers to assist with the care of the animals. I only spent a few hours there, but it was heartening to see how passionate the staff were about the welfare of the elephants, some of whom had been badly mistreated.

You can learn more about Asian elephants here.

And here is another photo, just because I love it.

Happy Thai Elephant Day!

Even elephant behinds are beautiful

Even elephant behinds are beautiful

Posted in Postcards, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , | 3 Comments