Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Week's Photohunt is in the Bag




This week's photohunt theme is bag.

This little joey may look comfortable in his bag, but he is probably missing mom, who was the victim of a reckless driver.  Each year thousands of kangaroos and wallabies are killed by cars.  Some of the victims are mothers, whose joeys--hidden the pouch-- survive the accident.  Without human intervention the little animals would die.  This guy was rescued on Kangaroo Island by Bev Turner at Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery.
If you are driving in Australia and unfortunate enough to hit a kangaroo or wallaby the Kangaroo Protection Coalition suggest the doing following:

Watch for oncoming traffic, your personal safety is most important.
1.  Check if the Kangaroo/Wallaby is still alive/dead.
2. If the Kangaroo/Wallaby is alive and injured, cover its face with a towel to quieten it. Gently place the Kangaroo/Wallaby in a hessian bay with a tie and place in the boot of your car. Take the Kangaroo/Wallaby immediately to the nearest Vet. If after hours, try the local newspaper, they usually have a wildlife carers contact details. there are moves afoot to get funding for a National freecall number.
3.  If the Kangaroo/Wallaby is dead - remove the body from the road. Raptors come to the road to feed off the carcase, and are often killed themselves.
4. Check if it is a male/female.
5. If it is a female, check the pouch for a joey.
6. If a joey is present - check if it is furred or pink (no fur).
7. If furred - remove from the pouch and place in an artificial pouch or wrap in a T-shirt or other soft cloth.
8. If pink (no fur) - check if the teat is in the mouth. DO NOT PULL OFF THE TEAT as the palette is removed and death is a certainty. 9. Place a safely pin through the base of the teat so the joey can't swallow it, and cut the teat off. The teat will drop out of the joey's mouth after a few hours.
10. Remove the joey from the pouch and place in an artificial pouch (from kit) or wrap in a soft cloth.
11. Place inside your own shirt, next to your body for warmth until you get home.
12. At home, place the joey next to a hot water bottle or a plastic drink bottle filled with hot water that has been wrapped well in a towel. The joey needs to be kept warm (not too hot or allowed to go cold) awayfrom any loud noises.
13. Ring your State Govt. Department dealing with wildlife and ask them to refer you to your nearest wildlife organisation or experienced carer.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Look at that Birdie in a Tutu


Our first trek in the "real" Australian bush, and by real I mean more than 10 km from Adelaide, was just over a year ago.
We headed up to the Southern Flinders Ranges.  I had a fitful night of sleep, nightmares of huge aggressive Emus chasing me down the track kept me tossing and turning.  When I described my dream to Mark, he didn't roll his eyes, but I could tell what he was thinking: "This is going to be a great day on the trail, she is going to jump at every little thing that moves."
We left Melrose, home to 2,000 people and a caravan park, and we weren't 5 kms away when we saw our first wild emu.  As we stopped the car all I could say was "Crap, they are larger in life."  I hoped this wasn't an omen of what was to come.
We reached Mt. Remarkable National Park and eagerly hit the trail.  The towering red cliffs of Alligator Gorge were awe-inspiring, with its rough and rugged walls.  As we left the sheltered gorge and headed out to the wider basin of the deep valley, Mark stopped to take off his jacket.  As I passed him he quietly chuckled.  I couldn't have been two minutes down the track when crashing out of the bush came two emus.  My first reaction was to scream, but all that escaped my lips was a hysterical laugh.  The two bumbling ballerinas, with their tutus swaying side to side, frantically raced down the track away from me.  Their awkward gait,  clumsy movements, and disproportionate body size in relation to knobby kneed, skinny legs, made me feel as though I had just come upon two large, fictional Muppet Characters rather than real live birds.   Large splashes of fresh liquid scat dropped on trail left no doubt that they were very real.


Emew

The emu, pronounced \ˈē-(ˌ)myü, -mü\ is native only in Australia, and is the second largest bird in the world after the ostrich.  They can grow between 1.5 to 2 meters in height and weigh up to 60 kg.  The large bird had an elongated neck and legs, but its wings are rather short. Hence they are unable to fly, but are able to run at relatively high speeds--in times of duress they can reach speeds of up to 50 km an hour.  Each foot has three forward facing toes.


Emu Footpring

Emus are nomadic and roam the countryside looking for food: fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, or other small animals and animal droppings.  Normally they are solitary creatures, but they may live in flocks or pairs when there is a lack of food.


Mob Emus

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mouldy Bottom or Loose Leaf?

Last week, when I was at the grocery store groping the pineapples an older gentleman came up to me and said "I heard that you look at the bottom and the one that has the most mould will be perfect."  I skipped his advice and went with what I had read in Cooks Illustrated Magazine.  I gently pulled a leaf, it effortlessly came out, and that was my choice.  
For those of you who are not familiar with Cooks Illustrated, all I can say is that it is my cooking bible.  At least it has been for the last 6 years, since I left all of my cookbooks in storage.  I have come to rely on CI not only for recipes but also for its' tips and reviews.  I love the section on Food Science.  Another great thing about CI is that it is available on-line.  No matter where I go present and past issues at my fingertips.  If you aren't familiar with it check it out and let me know what you think.
Since it helped me pick the perfect pineapple, I decided to give its' Pineapple Upside Down Cake a try, and it was lovely.




PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
One 9-inch cake, serving 8 to 10.   Published September 1, 2004.

For this recipe, we prefer to use a 9-inch cake pan with sides that are at least 2 inches high. Alternatively, a 10-inch ovensafe skillet (cast iron or stainless steel) can be used to both cook the pineapple and bake the cake. If using a skillet instead of a cake pan, cool the juices directly in the skillet while making the batter; it's OK if the skillet is warm when the batter is added.

INGREDIENTS
Pineapple Topping
1 medium fresh pineapple  (about 4 cups prepared fruit)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (7 ounces)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but still cool
3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 egg white at room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk at room temperature


INSTRUCTIONS

1. Lightly spray 9-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. For the pineapple topping: Combine pineapple and brown sugar in 10-inch skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally during first 5 minutes, until pineapple is translucent and has light brown hue, 15 to 18 minutes. Empty fruit and juices into mesh strainer or colander set over medium bowl. Return juices to skillet, leaving pineapple in strainer (you should have about 2 cups cooked fruit). Simmer juices over medium heat until thickened, beginning to darken, and mixture forms large bubbles, 6 to 8 minutes, adding any more juices released by fruit to skillet after about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla; pour caramel mixture into prepared cake pan. Set aside while preparing cake. (Pineapple will continue to release liquid as it sits; do not add this liquid to already-reduced juice mixture.)

3. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

4. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat to combine; one at a time, add whole eggs then egg white, beating well and scraping down bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low; add about one-third of flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add half of milk and beat until incorporated; repeat, adding half of remaining flour mixture and remaining milk, and finish with remaining flour. Give final stir with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl to ensure that batter is combined. Batter will be thick.

5. To bake: Working quickly, distribute cooked pineapple in cake pan in even layer, gently pressing fruit into caramel. Using rubber spatula, drop mounds of batter over fruit, then spread batter over fruit and to sides of pan. Tap pan lightly against work surface to release any air bubbles. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack, then place inverted serving platter over cake pan. Invert cake pan and platter together; lift off cake pan. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours; then cut into pieces and serve.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

QUIQUIRIQUÍ.....



It seems like every “foreign” experience has a rooster story, and of course my time in Utrera included it’s own.
It was an early spring morning.  The sun was just peeking over the horizon when all of a sudden a rooster began to crow.  I would have probably slept through it, after all it was no louder than some of the drunks that stumbled through the plaza on their way home at 5am, but I could have sworn that this cock was on our roof. I knew this couldn’t be since Chiva, who caught pigeons and bats mid air, lived upstairs.  There was no way she would share her space with a feathered friend. It couldn’t be next door on the left since we shared a wall with the downtown branch of the BBVA (a Spanish Bank), and I couldn't imagine our proper neighbors on the right having a pet rooster--but then again, you never know.  To my relief after the rooster let out a few more crows, I was able to roll over and fall asleep.
I didn’t think about it until the next day when, at the crack of dawn, once again I was awakened by a cock-a-doodle-doo.  But wait, this time the sound seemed a bit further away and a little to the east.  Unfortunately, when the early morning serenade ended, I was unable to fall back asleep.  So when my 10 am Pilates class rolled around I arrived a bit cranky.
I asked the class if anyone knew, who in downtown Utrera, had the new pet rooster.  They all told me that I was crazy, because no one who lived in a downtown home would own a rooster and, besides, none of them had heard it.  I argued that I have heard of stranger animals being taken on as pets, and of course they wouldn’t hear it since they all slept with their windows and shutters drawn--besides, nothing could wake them at the crack of dawn since they had just gone to bed at 3 am!!!  My argument didn’t change the fact that the class continued to consider me the Loca Americana, who was now imagining that she heard farm animals in town.
Later that afternoon when returning to our flat from the eastern part of the pueblo, I cut down the little cobblestone street where the three little triplets lived.  I never knew the family’s name, or the name of the street, but whenever I talked about the street where the triplets live everyone knew who and where I was talking about.  As I walked by the gate that lead to their indoor patio I suddenly heard a cock-a-doodle-doo.  I should have guessed; it was these three little terrors that owned the new pet.  At least the mystery was solved, and I would be able to save face at Pilates.
But wait, bright and early the next morning, out to the west my morning serenade began.  How could this be, I knew he was living at the triplets house to the east.  I was dying to figure this out, so I called Mari-Carmen.  She lived in the direction from which the roosters’ song came, and asked her if she had heard anything.  She said that that morning she had heard it for the first time, but that she would figure out what was going on.  If there was anyone who could figure out this mystery it was Mari-Carmen, as she seemed to know everyone and everything that went on in Utrera.
I waited and waited to hear from Mari-Carmen, but she never got back to me.  She probably had more important things to deal with and than an American wanting to know about a loose cock.  Besides, there was nothing we could do about it.
I would continue to hear the rooster each morning, but the sound continued to shift.  Mark, being the engineer that he is, tried to convince me that it was the echo and wind that made it sound like it was changing directions.  What did he know, he was always snoring right through the wake up call.  Of course, I eventually grew accustomed to the noise, and it stopped waking me up, that or maybe it even went away.
Then several weeks later I was in the check out line at the small local grocery store.  As was typical, the cashier was gossiping about life in Utrera.  Suddenly she started talking  to the lady in front of me.  “You know Ana, right?  Ana Jimenez, the one whose father owns the small farm that is located behind bar on the road to Molares.  Well, last month after a Sunday afternoon in the campo, her father sent her home with a rooster to make some stew.  When she took it up to the roof of her piso to ring its' neck, it escaped and has been flying around from roof top to roof top for the last month and no one can catch it.”
Had I heard this story several months earlier, I would have rolled my eyes, and chalked it up as Urban Legend.  But for me, it solved the mystery regarding the roaming rooster crow sound waves.  I just hoped that the bird would eventually make its way to our roof so that Chiva could permanently turn off the early morning alarm clock.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Mighty Murray River

We decided on a small part of the mighty Murray River, that we had yet to explore, as our weekend camping destination.
Mark's colleges laughter followed by "You are going where?" and rumors that the river was running dry had planted a seed of doubt and I questioned if we had made the right choice.  Mark remained confident in our selection, but I was beginning to have qualms as we once again hit the road.
Our journey took us from the sea breezes to an oppressive inland heat. The bitumen that had taken us from the green gardens of Adelaide, through the orchards (citrus, olive, and grape) of the River Lands, was far behind us.  We now crossed a dry and dusty track, and once again I felt doubt begin to rise.
Suddenly the leafless and lifeless plants of the dry escarpment were replaced by low lying shrubs.  These dry land plants--tea tree, hop bush, and murray pines--were showing the benefits of the recent rains.  Among the dry branches, new tender green shoots could be detected.  As we approached the river's flood plain we found ourselves in a forest of giant red and black gum trees.  Their towering canopy provided relief from the brutal sun.
Numbered campsites appeared on the riverside of the road.  To our dismay each one was already occupied.  According to the map, we had one option left, and we kept our fingers crossed as we continued down the road.  As we turned the final bend we let out a sigh of relief when we saw that the site was empty.
As I climbed out of the car and examined the Murray River any fears of disappointment were washed away.  I knew that the idyllic setting would provide nothing but pleasure.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Little Game



By looking at the above picture can you tell what this butcher, at the Adelaide Central Market, specializes in?  Maybe Skippy there in the corner will give you a hint.  Yep, that's right.  This stall sells kangaroo--mince, steaks, sausages, roasts, legs, and fillets.



I have yet to try the deep purple 'roo meat, but I have had several people tell me that it is very tasty and tender.  It is supposed to be good for you because not only is it high in protein and iron, but is also low in fat.
When I fist arrived in Australia, I was prepared to give kangaroo meat a try, or at least I was until I learned that all kangaroo meat comes from free ranging wild animals.   It isn't that I am against eating game; in fact, I support commercial kangaroo harvesting to control local populations.  I also feel that these native animals have less impact on the environment than cows and sheep.  However, every time I take a picture of a cute little guy, I worry that he may be one of my future meals!
It's funny, I never had that same feeling as I hiked across the pig farms of Aracena.  When I looked at the pigs, all I could see was a big plate of jamon serrano.  


Saturday, October 24, 2009

This week's photohunt all tied up...






This week's theme is tied.

From the late 1800's to the 1920's wood stave pipes, wooden slates tied together by galvanized steel, were used to transport water and sewage.  In the early 1900's the pipe in this picture was part of a pipeline that carried water from the Barossa Reservoir to the nearby town of Gawler.  The pipe can be seen at the outdoor Water Works Museum at the Barossa Reservoir.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spring is Sung

The antarctic winds have once again subsided and spring surrounds me. This morning on my way home I felt the warm sun on my skin, I heard the birds chirping, I smelled roses, and I saw two Seniors fooling around in a corner behind the community center. Well maybe the old folk's public display of affection--boy were they getting it on--had nothing to do with spring, but they gave me hope for when I reach what  in Spain they call "La Tercera Edad."  However, I am having a hard time imagining Mark and me involved in any public hanky-panky, but it is nice to know that there are those who remain young at heart.
Today I tried to recall La Primavera en España.  I think that since the winters of Southern Spain are so mild and sunny, I never longed for those perfect spring days.  I know they existed, and I fondly  remember sitting on the plaza in the evening, enjoying the smell of orange blossoms. We would joke about enjoying the days while we could, because the sweltering heat of summer was just around the corner.
Spring in Utrera did not bring the blustery antarctic winds, but it did bring a howl of a different sort.  The landlord's son and his girlfriend lived in a tiny roof-top studio above us.  The place was so small that when they decided to adopt a street kitten, they couldn't take her inside with them, so she had reign of the roof top.  I didn't mind; she would keep me company while I hung out my clothes on the solar dryer.  Maybe I should say I didn't mind until the little girl grew up and went into heat.  The first night it happened I thought she was dying. I had never heard anything like it.  Our bedroom window was on a light shaft and her painful cries would echo throughout the building.
After a couple of nights of not sleeping I went up and had a talk with el Niño.  I wanted to find out if he planned to get Chiva fixed, because there was no way I could go through week long relentless meowing every month.  He told me not to worry because he had talked to the Vet, and that she would quickly out grow this condition.  Hmmmm, I wasn't so sure I believed him.
By the third month of suffering from kitty's perpetual screaming meow, I threatened to go have a talk with Daddy.  Oh, no no no, Diego assured me that he had an appointment with the vet and was having her fixed the next  week.
Unfortunately, four weeks later, I was informed that they hadn't had time to make the last appointment, but they had another one scheduled for the following Tuesday.
The following month I was greeted with silent nights--or at least silent as far as the cat was concerned.  We were no longer tormented by Chiva's constant wail from above.  Instead, as the nights grew warmer, all the local borrachos would party in the street in front of our flat--providing us with a cacaphony of drunken hoots and hollers.
For over nine months Chiva was quiet.  I always wondered how it was that she had never showed signs of having been fixed, and that she had no scars.  Well nine months later my questions were answered, as she once again entered celos.  Apparently, spring was upon us, and la gatita was letting us know--all night long.  At this point I skipped the talk with Jr. and went straight to Dad.  Actually Dad wasn't around, and Mom was surprised to hear that we had a cat living on our roof.   To this day I do not know what transpired from that conversation.  Our spring was spent on the road, and before we knew it the cat nights of spring had turned to the dog days of summer.  As the seasons changed, Mark and I packed our home and headed off to a new country leaving Chiva's cries as a distant memory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flinders Ranges Adventure

Click to View Full Size

Our second visit to the Flinders Ranges was a bit more adventurous.  We decided to rent a camper van.  We figured in doing so we would be able to camp without having to invest in all the equipment.  Also, since it was the beginning of the rainy winter season, there was a special on camper van rentals.  It was cheaper to rent a van than a car.  Plus, there was the additional savings of not having to rent a place to stay!!!
My visions of a cozy camping trip in a Vanagon quickly disappeared when I received a text from Mark telling me that he was downstairs and couldn't fit the camper into the parking garage.  Apparently we had been upgraded to a monster camper van.
We quickly loaded the illegally parked beast and began our road trip.  We arrived at the gates to Wilpena Pound at 5 p.m.  It was decision time, and we could either camp at the main campground or continue on what our map showed to be a 35 km seal road to the bush campground.  We decided to go for the latter, since it would mean that we wouldn't have to drive to the trail head the next morning.  Halfway to our destination, the sealed road turned to dirt.  As we turned onto the last 7 km section, not only was it very dark, but it was drizzling and there was a lot of lightning on the horizon.  The road continued to deteriorate.  The rain concerned us because of the several creek crossings that we had to make, but since turning the monster around was not an option, we had to continue.  Finally we arrive at the campsite.  We weren't surprised to see that there were only two other cars in the area, nor were we surprised when one of them got up and left at 6 a.m.--it was a bit cold and wet.
Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time we got up.  As Mark prepared breakfast, I pulled out the maps.  I wanted to see if all the maps showed the road our campsite as sealed, or if it was an error on the map that we had used.  Oops, we used the wrong map.  It turns out that other maps not only mark the second half of the road as unsealed, but the last 7 km was a 4wd road.  How on earth did we miss the signs?  Oh well, nothing we could do about it at that point, so we decided to hit the trail.
The Wilkawillina Gorge Trail followed Mt. Billy Creek bed which was dry for the most part.  About an hour and a half into the hike we did come across a wonderful fresh spring oasis.  There was evidence of wildlife, but no one came out to greet us.  The lack of wildlife was made up by the spectacular surrounding hills.  Their undulating forms and contrasting colors were breath taking.  At about 7 km into the trial, we left the creek bed to climb the abrupt peak of Mt. Billy.  At the top we had a panoramic view of the spectacular country side.  As we returned to camp, we realized that on our outbound journey we had missed the trail.  Rather than following the creek the entire time, we were supposed to cut through a canyon and cross over a small hill.   We were glad to have found this short cut on our return and were left in awe by the desolate moon-like landscape that we had to cross.
When we arrived back at camp, we found that everyone else had left.  At first I worried that we would be a bit lonely that evening, but we were nice and cozy inside the van.  That night we were even treated to a full moon.
We were relieved to have received a minimal amount of rain throughout the night.  I know that was a bit selfish on our part, but we were stressed about getting the monster through a 4wd road.  We awoke to a wonderful rainbow on the horizon and wondered what pot of gold it would hold for us on this day.
After breakfast we hit the road.  I may have been stressed on our drive in, but seeing the road in daylight had me terrified.  It took what seemed like hours to traverse the 7 kms to the regular unsealed roads.    We stopped so that I could look for the signs indicating a 4wd road.  No wonder why I missed it.  There on the side of the road were two lonely posts, obviously some joker must have the important message hanging in his bedroom!
As I reflect back on our hike it that part of the Flinders, I realize that, like Arkaroola, it also was very dry and the the drought had hit this area with force.  However, since it was the start of the rainy season we thought that the conditions were temporary and would improve as winter went on.  I now think that even with this years wet winter the conditions at this eastern section of the Flinders Ranges have probably not improved much because, due to their location, they just don't receive the water they need.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In Season


For the past couple of years I have been trying to focus on eating produce that is locally in season. This means my fruit and vegetables are no longer traveling great distances to arrive at my table. It also means no more berries in winter, oranges in summer, asparagus in fall, or grapes in spring.
I am very excited because mango season has arrived in Australia. My favorite way to eat a mango is to peel it and start eating. There is nothing like having the sticky juice on your fingers, and dribbling down your chin. Another way I like to eat mangoes is in a recipe that I came across several years ago called Mango Mousse.

Mango Mousse

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb. mangoes
1 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
3 1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup chilled cream
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish


Place a bowl in the freezer to chill. Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh from the pits.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the lime juice and let stand for 5 minutes. Place over low heat and stir until the gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

In a food processor or blender, combine the mangoes, gelatin mixture, and sugar and process until smooth. Pour the mango puree into a large bowl.

Remove the chilled bowl from the freezer and pour the cream into it. Lightly beat cream. Fold the cream into the mango puree just until no white streaks remain.

Divide the mousse among four 3/4-cup bowls. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 6 hours.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Wilpena Pound

Panoramic View Wilpena Pound

This past May we visited the Central Flinders Ranges with my mother.  I wanted to share with her the Australian bush that we have grown to love, and give her an idea of how isolated parts of Australia are.  We thought of going a bit farther into the outback, but due to time limitations we settled on a destination of Wilpena Pound--429 kilometers north of Adelaide.
Wilpena Pound, a naturally made amphitheater, is the paramount feature of the Flinders Ranges.  The walls of the enormous 80 sq. km--17 km long and 8 km wide-- concavity reach up to 500 meters.  These towering walls form a jagged rocky rim that surrounds a flat basin floor. There is only one easy entrance into the rock basin, and it is via the Wilpena Creek.  However, you can also enter the pound by climbing the sheer cliffs near St. Mary's Peak or Bridle Gap.
As tempting as it was to visit Wilpena Pound via St. Mary's Peak--we decided to save that trek for a trip when we didn't have Mom in tow--we headed up the creek towards the Wangara Lookout.  The riparian environment was lush from the recent rains, however, the very scrawny kangaroos were a reminder that the green growth was a recent arrival to this desert area.  After about an hour trek we arrived at the basin floor.  We were surrounded by a sea of trees that were engulfed by rugged red walls.  We faced a 30 minute strenuous hike up the steep rock cliffs.  My mother was a trooper and upon arrival at the top we were rewarded with a panoramic view of Wilpena Pound.

Steep Climb to Wangara Lookout

As we looked across the basin floor it was not hard to imagine why early settlers chose this scenic location to build a homestead and station.  After all, the creek provided water and the steep walls protection.  From the mid 1850's until 1914, several families leased and attempted to make a living at homesteads and stations built in the basin.  Unfortunately, over time the drought and floods forced all of the homesteaders out.
As we returned to the car we had to agree with all the people who had told us that Wilpena Pound was a must see in South Australia, and we knew that a return visit was in the near future.

Scrawny Euro Kangaroo

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Golden Urban Adventure



Last week Mark came home with a Gold Class Movie Gift Card--a thanks for all of his hard work on a recent successful proposal.  We decided that on Saturday we would see our first movie, in a cinema, in Australia.  When Mark went to the Cinema's Web page, to see what was showing, he was a bit surprised when he was informed that we would be treated to the "ultimate movie-going indulgence."  Some how we missed the evolution of the Movie Theater, and apparently the sitting in a sticky seat with some schmuck behind you, loudly crunching his pop-corn in your ear, is a thing of the past.  The web page described the theater as an intimate setting, no more than 30-40 guests, with full food and bar service.
So yesterday afternoon we headed over to the Marion Cinema Complex for a journey into the ultimate world of cinema luxury.  We were still unsure what to expect.    We arrived a bit early--no worries-- we were directed to a private seating area a half-hour before the show.  We were cheerfully greeted and handed a menu.  We were informed that we were to place our order at the bar, and then food and drinks would be delivered to us inside the cinema at our chosen time.  After studying the menu, we agreed to celebrate in style with some bubbly and an antipasto plate.  As we looked around the room we were a bit worried that we would be the only people in the cinema, but slowly the room began to fill up.  Just before the movie starting time, we were lead to our seats in the theater.
It was indeed intimate.  Rather than rows of seats,  36 very large and comfy recliners were placed in pairs around the room.  Each sitting area was isolated from it's neighbor, and it had it's own table.  Service was quiet and came at it's designated time.  We enjoyed our order, however, I can't comment on the presentation since it was served in the dark.  Overall it was a tasty treat, but it would be pretty hard to screw-up an antipasto plate.
I am sure some of you are wondering what movie we saw.  If you know me, you know that I didn't get my father's gene of being a movie watcher--he watches at least one movie a day.  I have watched maybe 5 rentals in the past year, and I have no idea what the current releases are.  Mark choose Julie and Julia because his mother had mentioned that it involved a blog, and he knows how much I love to cook.  It turned out to be the perfect movie for us to see.
Over all I would have to say that our Gold Class Movie experience was a success.  It was a bit pricey, but our gift card covered the tickets, food and beverage so I won't complain.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mom and I

Mom and I at Teotihuacan
This week is a free week over at photohunt.  I decided to post this picture that my Mom recently sent me of a trip we took together to Teotihuacan, Mexico.
In September of '07 my mother took a group of University students to study in Morelia, Mexico.  I was able to join her for 8 weeks of her trimester abroad.  I will never forget the wonderful time that we had together.
My trip to Mexico also played an important role in how Mark and I arrived in Australia.  When I returned to Spain, the urge to explore the unknown had resurfaced.  I told Mark that as much as I loved the Old Continent, it was time to move on. When a job opportunity opened up in Australia, we were more than ready to pack up our bags and move.  If you follow my blog you can tell that it is a move that we do not regret.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dog Gone...

My favorite part of an Australian Road Trip is that you never know what you will come across.  There are mother nature's many surprises: numerous wildlife sightings, spectacular scenery, brilliant colors, scenic sunsets, and the every changing skies.  Then, there are those interesting man made attractions: decorated trees, isolated sculpture gardens, dog fences, and iconic roadside attractions.  When on the road, I have learned to keep my eyes open and to look for the unexpected.
As we were cruising across the vast open plains of Western Australia, on our way back from Wave Rock, I was surprised when I spied what looked to be a very large dog sitting in the distance.  It was too large to be real, and I couldn't wait to see what this mysterious form out in the middle nowhere might be.  I informed Mark that something was up ahead, and I told him "Slow down."  To our surprise, several miles from the closet town, was a huge concrete dog guarding the entrance guarding the entrance to a Dog Cemetery.

Mark isn't the greatest fan of cemeteries, but I got him to stop.  This burial ground, located just outside of Corrigin, was established in 1974.  There are over 80 furry, four-legged creatures buried at this sacred spot.  A quick walk around assured us that the animals were well loved.  Inscriptions on the headstones ranged from a mere name, to some emotional words about man's best mate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies


Our stop at Telowie George wasn't to visit the southernmost colony of Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies in Australia, but because we needed to get out and stretch our legs.  It was on our first mini road-trip in Australia.  We were dreading the 4 hour drive to Melrose, and figured we would stop about half-way to break up the drive.  It is funny that we now drive almost twice that distance in a day without even thinking about it.
An 8 km dirt road brought us to a deserted parking lot in a National Conservation Park.  There were a couple of hiking options.  We decided on the short Nukunu Trail. It was mid-afternoon and we still had a couple hour drive in-front of us.
The Nukunu trail is a well marked trail that leads to a rock pool in the Gorge.  The signs indicated that early morning or evening visitors maybe lucky enough to spot an endangered Rock Wallaby.  It also noted that experienced bushwalkers could continue along the creek bed.  After a quick look around we decided to continue up the rocky bottom.  It was a fairly warm afternoon, and our only company were swarms of bush flies.  It was slow going along the creek bottom, and at one point a trail headed up the sloping side of the hill.  I decided to head up the trail, but Mark continued in the creek.  He was about 10 feet ahead of me and 15 feet below me, when all of a sudden in the bush across from me came a loud crash.  As I looked across the dry riverbed I couldn't believe my eyes.  Standing, perfectly still, on the other bank was a Rock Wallaby.  I somehow managed to control my excitement and not scream--so the Wallaby and I just stood there for over a minute staring at each other.  Fortunately, Mark had the camera and was able to catch a picture of the Wallaby.

Rock Wallaby Telowie Gorge

When we got back to the Car Park I anxiously approached the information board to learn more about the beautiful animal I had just seen.  It had looked a lot like a Kangaroo and I wanted to find out what made it different.  It turns out that Wallabies and Kangaroos are both from the macropod family.  As its name implies, this brightly colored animal lives in rocky outcrops.  They are identifiable by their yellow feet, striped tail, and white markings on their cheeks, and undersides.  They are a smaller marsupial (mothers carry their young around in built-in pouches) and stand up to 60 cm.

Rock Wallaby Flinders Ranges

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Soplas...


View From Our Flat On Calm Day

For 5 years, I dreaded the horrid summers of southern Spain.  The heat would arrive in May and last well in to September-- a consistent 35C+ degree heat.  By 11:00 in the morning you had to retreat inside--it was just too hot in the street-- and it would not cool off until well into the evening.  No wonder Spaniards are famous for their nightlife; it is the only time of the day they can go out during the summer.  For some, this may sound like an exaggeration, but anyone who has experienced an Andalusian summer will understand my metaphor: this is earth's equivalent of hell.
When we decided to move to Southern Australia, I worried about what the summer season would bring.  Having survived one summer on this isolated continent, I have to say that, at least here in Adelaide, it was nothing like what I suffered in Utrera.  There were a couple of weeks last January/Feburary where we had 35C+ degree days, but the heat didn't last for months on end.  There were days of sweltering heat, but these were followed by more comfortable temperatures.
This being said, Spring has become my least favorite season in Southern Australia.  It teases me with beautiful days... you know the ones I am talking about... the weather that makes you think that everything beautiful.   The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and a walk along the beach is a true pleasure. It was that kind of weather we experienced last week, perfect for spring break. I even started thinking about breaking out my summer clothes, but deep down I knew it was too good to be true. Sure enough, yesterday morning I was greeted by a malicious wind that has turned the calm blue bay water into a tumultuous sea.  This chilling wind comes straight up from Antarctica.  Keep in mind there isn't a lot between us and that frozen continent to slow down or warm the air stream that comes our way.
The chatter of birds has been replaced with the crashing of waves and the howl of the wind.  On days like this, it is virtually impossible for me to cross the beach access zone, a corridor between our apartment and the hotel next door, without being blown away.  We have nicknamed the crossing "the wind tunnel."
I can sit in the flat and watch the fast rolling storms move in.  They begin as a darkening horizon that quickly turns the sky a dark grey.  The wind blown rain slams against the window, shaking the entire apartment.  The squalls depart  as quickly as they arrive, with another one brewing out on the horizon.




The Bay On A Windy Day

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mt. Gammon


Arid Mt. Gammon

Our recent trip to Arkaroola included a couple of days at the Mt. Gammon Ranges National Park, located on the southern boundary of the  Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary.  The park has several bush camping areas, and we decided to stay at the site near Grindells Hut because of its proximity to several hiking trails.  It is one of the more isolated camping areas, and we had to traverse a 17 km 4wd road to access the camping area.
There is a Hut, that can be rented from the Park Services, but we stayed down among the river gums.  Finding the ideal site was a bit tricky, because you don't want to put your tent under the large trees, as they are known to drop heavy branches without warning.  Fortunately, we arrived early and were able to find a spot that not only suited our needs, but was probably the best spot in the campground.
Once camp was set up, we hit the trail.  We originally planned to hike an 18 km loop, but because most of the trail followed a 4wd track, we decided to take a single track "short cut" up to Weetootia Spring.  This meant climbing the rugged hills and passing the old abandoned Monarch Mine.  As we headed out of the valley, we were able to look across the vast Illinawortina Pound.  The scene before us was dramatic and dismal--the barren land was shocking.  As we snaked our way up the bald hills it was impossible to miss the effect of the recent decade-long drought.  The fine bull dust crunched with each step--evidence of just how parched the earth was.  Piles of branches--once living trees--lined the trail.  There was a total lack of life: no ants, birds, lizards, or even scat from nocturnal animals, and even the ruthless flies of the outback were gone.  As we neared the top of the ridge we, did see traces of past life, as shards of green rock began to litter the trail--remnants of an old cooper mine.  When we stood on the ridge, I was struck by how a land could be so empty--devoid of water, life, and sound.

Rugged Hills near Monarch Mine

At this point the trail followed the ridge for several kilometers, as we moved from the eastern side of the hill to the west.  It is amazing how the crossing of the crest of a hill can bring change.  The bull dust became softer in texture, and antlion holes began to appear in the delicate sand.  Where there are antlions there are ants.  A close look at the ground also showed very small green leaves, and there were even a few standing trees.  We weren't out of the desert--the land around us remained arid--we were in a small micro climate that supported a mini-ecosystem of life.
In the distance, we saw a rocky knob and decided that we would stop there for lunch before heading down to the gorge.  When we arrived at our predetermined lunch spot we were amazed at what lay before us.  The canyon below was a sea of green nesting the red rock.  We sat and ate lunch in awe.  The scene before us, Balcanoona Range and Wortuppa Creek, was breath taking.  Especially when compared to the barren , waterless land we had just traversed.

Balcanoona Range and Wortuppa Creek

We finished lunch quickly and anxiously headed down to the canyon bottom.   As we approached the riverbed we saw water glistening--we had found an oasis in the desert.  The silence that had accompanied us for the past hour and a half was replaced with the chirping of many birds.  At the canyon bottom we walked a bit in the opposite direction of camp in order to reach Weetootia Spring.  It was well worth the detour.  Not only were we able to rinse our hands in the refreshing cool water, but we also had the the opportunity to view a lone rare Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby in the outcrops above us.

Weetootia Spring

Our return walk to our campsite followed the rocky creek bottom.  Although the creek was not an endless flow of water, we did come across several fresh water springs.  Beneath the green algae and plants you could see the crystal clear water.  Near each naturally formed water hole there were plenty of signs of animal life, and we even came across a kangaroo and several more Wallabies--and, of course, we were once again joined by plenty of bush flies.

Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fish Opera


Fish Opera
Yesterday, Mark and I headed over to Port Adelaide for The Port Festival.  We arrived in the early evening and were a bit tired because we walked about 20 km to get there!!  We could have taken public transportation, but the afternoon was perfect and we wanted to get in an urban coastal walk.   Our main goal for attending the Festival was to see what we hoped to be a unique post sunset light show.
After re-energizing with some fish & chips and a locally brewed beer, we headed down to the water front for the Fish Opera.  We had no idea what to expect, but the show turned out to be well worth the walk.  We were treated to a laser light show of comical sea caricatures, uniquely broadcasted onto a spray of fine mist, over the port harbour.  The visual masterpiece was accompanied by some of Opera's most popular music.  I have posted a brief video above, although I have yet to master video making skills.  If you can not view it, please let me know.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everybody's Surfing Now...


This week's theme is sports.

Obviously, surfing is a sport associated with Australia.  Since I am from the desert, and afraid of water, I thought I would never take up this sport. However, on a trip to Wave Rock I thought I'd give it a try.
Wave Rock, one of Australia's most famous landforms, is located 350 km from Perth.  The shape of the wave is formed by gradual erosion of the softer rock beneath the upper edge.  The wave is about 15 metres high and approximately 110 meters long.  The colors of the Wave are caused by the rain washing chemical deposits (carbonates and iron hydroxide) down the face, forming vertical stripes of greys reds and yellows.
When visiting the Eyre Peninsula, I found another shark-less, granite monolith.  I think I improved my form while catching this wave.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Fishy Story

On my way home from the gym, I stopped by the fishmongers and picked up a nice looking whole trout.  There was a time when I would have turned around and run before buying a whole fish.
When I arrived in Spain, 6 months after Mark, he told me that he thought it would be nice to have some fresh fish once a week.  After all, we were a mere 60 km from the ocean and he felt we should take advantage of the accessibility to quality fresh seafood.  Besides, he had really come to enjoy a whole grilled fish.  An image of my Spanish Host Mother, from many years earlier, sucking on the heads of whole grilled shrimp came to mind, and I said "You have got to be kidding."  After all, I come from NM in the middle of the desert and had no idea how to buy or cook a whole fish.
I wanted to be a good wife, especially since we were newlyweds, so it was off to the fish store.  I held my breath as I entered and looked around.  Other than a couple of swordfish steaks, there was not a single filet for sale.  Just the whole shebang--head, scales, fins, and guts all included.  I approached the counter and was closely examining the fish.  At the exact moment that I realized some of the fish had teeth, I heard "Que te pongo?"  I can only imagine the look on my face, as I turned around and fled the store.
After several days on the internet, I learned all that I needed to know about cooking a whole fish.  The next time I entered the fish store I was able to confidently make a purchase.  The guy offered to clean it for me, but I told him I wanted to give it a try on my own.  I was surprised by how easy it is to clean a fish, and from that day on I have had no problem buying and cleaning a whole fish.  In fact, I now prefer buying a fish whole, since it is much easier to tell how fresh it by looking at its eyes.
That being accomplished, the next step is going to be getting a fishing rod and heading out to the Jetty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bearded Dragon

On our almost 300 km dirt road drive from Arkaroola to Yunta we passed several lizards basking on the side of the road. When we stopped the car, this guy didn't run away, but rather posed for a picture.
This species of lizard is named Bearded Dragon because of the beard like, spiky scales, found on the underside of their head.  The Bearded Dragon can only be found in the wild in Australia.  They are omnivores and can grow to be between 12 to 24 inches in length.  They vary in color, depending on the color of the soil in the region in which they live in.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dry




It is not uncommon to hear people in Adelaide claim that they live in the driest city, in the driest state, in the driest continent on Earth.  There have been drought conditions in this part of the world for the last several years.  Often, when I walk the streets of my new hometown I reflect on this fact.  As I look around me and see all the beautiful gardens and flowering trees, I find it hard to believe that there is a lack of water. Not only is there a lushness around me, but my skin feels hydrated, and I lack the constant thirst I have when I am in more arid country.
Throughout the winter we seemed to have plenty of days of rain.  Far more than I ever saw when living in Southern Spain, or back in Albuquerque.  Of course, the picture during the summer is different, and we can go several months without a single shower.  During this time the plants turn brown from a lack of water and the extreme heat.  However, during the dry season I still do not feel the effects of an extreme drought.
It was on a recent trip we took to Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, an old sheep farm that has been returned to it's natural state, that that I was truly able to see the results of almost a decade of below normal precipitation. As we exited the car, I felt the moisture leave my skin and my lips crack. I immediately reached for my water bottle.  The spectacular scenery around us was dulled by the oppressive effects of the drought.  We did not expect this bleakness--after all South Australia has had the wettest winter in several years and just 250 km away we had crossed water filled gullies. I guess the waters had somehow failed to fall on this part of the northern Flinders Ranges.
We spent two days exploring the Arkaroola's peaks and gorges.  Once we got over the barrenness, we found the color and the rugged peaks of the land captivating. However, the devastation of the drought was ever present as we walked though the lifeless landscape that lacked waterholes and wildlife.  Apart from a flock of cockatoo's, 2 echidnas, and a lone 'roo at sunrise, we saw no other live animals while out on the trails, though there were plenty of sun dried carcasses--wallabies, kangaroos, and eagles.
The hardest part of the whole situation was man's lack of sensitivity to the dire situation of Arkaroola.  While walking back tracks we passed camp sites where smoldering fires had been left unattended while the campers were off 4 wheel driving.  We are very sensitive to this issue since one of the worst forest fires in New Mexico was caused by two tourists who left a smoldering campfire on a windy day.  Then, there were the women in the campground who took the never ending showers.  There were signs throughout the bathhouse reminding visitors of the lack of water, and asking us to minimize our use.  Several times I found myself turning off dripping faucets and blazing lights.  I can't help but wonder,  if people would get out of their 4 wheel drives and walk the land, they would realize just how catastrophic the drought is. Perhaps then they would realize that we need to do all we can to lessen the human impact on an uncontrollable situation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Last Stop




Monday was Labor Day here in Southern Australia.  It was not a National Holiday, and it occurs on different dates throughout the different States.  We decided to take advantage of the long weekend, and visit the Northern Flinders Ranges.
I have to laugh when I think back to a year ago, when I would never have imagined making the 1,200+ kilometer round trip journey: many dirt roads--into the remote wilderness mountains of Southern Australia.   Stories of the demise of ill-fated travelers, to the thought of the vast and harsh interior of the country, filled me with fear.  Over time I realized this fear was irrational.  Even though the land around me was wild and untamed, it was a threat only to those who do not respect it and who are not prepared.
We have made several different trips into the isolated bush.  Each trek has taken extensive planning and preparation.   For the most part our adventures have run smoothly.  However, on this last trip we were reminded that it is not enough to plan and prepare well; you have to expect the unexpected.
We planned to camp two nights at the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, which includes a village with varied accommodations: a restaurant, a store, and a garage.  We were completely self-sufficient and only needed to buy petrol and ice at the store.  We figured that by buying ice at the final destination, it would last longer.  We never even considered that the ice-machine at Arkaroola would be broken.  The next closest town was 167 kilometers away.  Fortunately, we only had a couple of items that needed to be on ice and all we had to do was change the order in which we ate pre-planned meals.  I will admit that bratwurst for breakfast with hot mustard is probably not my favorite, and that after 6 hours of hiking Mark was a little disappointed by the breakfast burrito (we had planned on a thick steak).  We survived the warm beer, and only had to throw away a few items.
Overall, we felt we were lucky.  It could have been worse. I could have had a week's worth of food that required refrigeration or the petrol pump could have been broken.  We also learned an important lesson-- in a land of extremes, and vast distances, don't wait for the last stop.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yank


On my 7 a.m. bottle drops (see I Can't Stop Chasing Men) I was recently asked if I was from Canada.  When I replied, "No, I am from the United States," the bottle collector took a brief pause and then asked hesitantly "Are you a Yank?"  I had to chuckle, and said "Yes, I am a Yank."  My "friend" looked a bit confused and he then told me that he met another woman from the United States who got mad at him for calling her a Yank, and wanted to know why.  After all, when he was in the war the Americans all called themselves Yanks, and they even sang Yankee Doodle.  I was then treated to an Australian rendition of this American themed song.
I couldn't really answer his question.  I have heard many people from the US call themselves Yanks, but also know of many who are offended by the term.
I myself take the expression with tongue-in-cheek.  I don't really find it insulting, but instead look at it as a part of the Australian culture of  Ozspeak.  
Perhaps this an easy cultural border for me to cross; after all it is very common for New Mexicans to refer to people with nicknames--Cissy, Pancho, Chuy, Lupe, or Lalo.  There are also those names used to refer to people behind their back--La Falsy, Patito, Cry Baby, Big Boy, and SLT (Sabe Lo Todo).  The use of these names could be seen as derogatory in nature by some, but for many New Mexicans it is a cultural norm. 
I also know that Mark has no problem referring to himself as a Yank.  Even though he is not originally from New Mexico he is also familiar with the use of nicknames for humorous effect, and he went to college with Mango, Muscle Head, Crisco, and Uncle Animal.  
On the other hand, I know that I took offense to being called a Janqui in Spain.  I had no problem when called a guiri, though I identified myself as a New Mexican.  Maybe this was because I wanted to distance myself from the local US Air-force base--many of the service men, women and their families did not integrate into the local community.  Or perhaps it was my need to show my New Mexican-ness and the fact even though I  learned Spanish as an adult, I have historical ancestral ties to the language.  
As far as the present is concerned, I doubt that you will find me walking down the street singing Yankee Doodle, but I will not take offense at being called Yank.  However, I am insulted by Sepo--another term used for people from the United States.  It comes from an Australian tradition of playing with words.  Since tank rhymes with Yank, they take the term Septic Tank and reduce it to Sepo which comes to stand for Yank.  I do find this term to be a bit beyond tongue-in-check, and can not find any endearing qualities in it. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Marvelous Murray's Kiwi Fruit Tart

During the winter months there are always Kiwis in our house--the fruit not the bird!  I have found that the Kiwis here in Australia, are even tastier than those I have previously eaten.  I decided to take advantage of the end of the season and make one of our favorite tarts.  The following simple recipe comes from Epicurious.  I cut the Kiwis in rounds rather than quarters.

Marvelous Murray's Kiwi Fruit Tart



Sweet Pastry Dough


Ingredients 
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons ice water

Preparation

Cut butter into bits. In a bowl with a pastry blender or in a food processor blend or pulse together flour, sugar, salt, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl whisk together yolks and ice water. Add yolk mixture to flour mixture and toss or pulse until incorporated. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill dough 1 hour.


Tart

Ingredients
rice for weighting shell
1 cup hazelnuts (about 1/4 pound)
8 kiwifruits
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum


Preparation 

Reserve a quarter of dough for another use. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out remaining dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) and fit into an 11- by 1 1/4-inch round tart pan with a removable fluted rim. Trim dough flush with rim. (Don't worry if dough cracks; press dough together to patch any holes.) Prick shell lightly all over with a fork. Chill shell, covered, 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake shell in middle of oven 15 minutes and remove weights or rice. Bake shell until pale golden, about 10 minutes more, and transfer to a rack to cool. Reduce temperature to 350°F. Chop hazelnuts. Peel kiwifruits and quarter lengthwise. Halve vanilla bean half lengthwise and scrape seeds into a small saucepan, reserving pod for another use. Add butter and melt over moderately low heat until golden brown. Cool mixture to room temperature. Into a small bowl sift flour. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs with sugar and rum until thick and pale. Fold in flour gently but thoroughly. Fold butter into egg mixture gently but thoroughly. Arrange kiwifruits evenly in one layer in tart shell and pour filling over them, spreading evenly. Sprinkle hazelnuts over filling and bake in middle of oven 35 minutes, or until top is golden. Cool tart in pan on a rack.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Words





This week's theme is words.


When you head into the Australian Outback, it doesn't take long for the voice on the radio to fade and for mobile signals to disappear.  Unless you have a UHF radio you become cut off from the rest of the world.  The words on the signs become your friends and provide you with all the important information you need for a successful trip.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Moons of Australia


Full Moons in Australia
The moon has been a re-occuring theme in our lives since our arrival in Australia.
We have been accompanied by a full moon on many of our trips.  At Uluru we witnessed a simultaneous reflecting sunset and full moon rise at one of Australia's most famous icons.  In Tasmania we were able to take a moonlit boardwalk hike at Cradle Mountain. At the Pinnacles, in Western Australia, we saw the full moon set as the sun rose.  In Sydney the round circle in the sky contrasted with the geometric shapes of the Opera house.  At the Flinders Range the full moon was our only company at the deserted Wilkawillina Campground.
In July our attention was drawn to the moon as we celebrated 40 years since the first moon walk.  The actual date of this historical event depends on where you live.  In Australia it was the 21st of of July, whereas in the United States it was on the 20th of July--because of the time zones.  A few weeks prior to the 4 decade anniversary we just happened to rent the Australian film "The Dish".  The story, which takes place in New South Whales, describes of the role that the Parkes Observatory  played in the broadcasting of man's first steps on the moon in 1969.  Prior to viewing the movie I had no idea that Australia played such an important role in the bringing  of Neil Armstrong's "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." down to earth.  Perhaps part of my ignorance is due to the fact that back in 1969 I was only one year old.  My Mom, however, did save a newspaper clipping for posterity's sake. I doubt that I am the only one that did not know this important fact.
The same week as the anniversary of the Lunar Landing, we visited the Moon Plain--a section of desert  that has been named because of it's lunar-like surface.  The Moon Plain is located 15 km north east of Coober Pedy, and is probably best known as the backdrop for Mad Max Beyond Thunder Drome.  It is unlike any other place that I have visited.  As you stand on the crunchy, "spider" cracked surface, gazing across the barren landscape, it is not hard to imagine that you are standing on the moon.





The Moon Plain
Finally, though not directly related to the moon, last June we grieved to loss of the world's most famous Moonwalker, Michael Jackson.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kan see 'roo



This weekend marks the year anniversary of my first wild 'roo sighting.  I remember the event clear as day.  We were cruising down the Southern Expressway, when in my peripheral vision, I caught a glimpse of a kangaroo's ears bouncing above the barrier wall.  No wait, that was the ponytail of the runner with a serious spring in her step.  Oh, I remember...it was further down the road.  On the hillside in the distance, there it was hunched over--enjoying some nibblies.  No, that was a granite boulder in a field.  Ahhh, now I know.  It was that crazed blob bouncing from one side of the road to the other--unable to escape because of the high chain link fence.  That was it!!  Between my shrieking, "It's a roo, it's a roo!!," and the animal flying all over the road, it's a miracle Mark didn't wreck the car.  It was such an emotional moment that I almost pissed myself.
Since then, there have been hundreds if not thousands of 'roo views.  Mark calls me the kangaroo detector, and I can spot even the best camouflaged animal.  However, when Mom came for a visit I was very stressed that perhaps my new found ability would falter, and that I wouldn't be able to share a wild experience with her.
As I planned our "let's show Mum Australia" itinerary, I remembered that at one of the Expat in Adelaide meetings I was talking to Brett, who told me that if you wanted to be sure to see a 'roo to head down to Deep Creek Conservation Park on the Fleurieu Peninsula.  I decided to take a gamble, and take his word for it.  It turns out that Brett is not a lying man.  When we arrived at Deep Creek Conservation Park, an hour and a half south of Adelaide, we were treated to mobs of Western Grey Kangaroos.
There were plenty of these normally nocturnal animals lounging around or having a mid-morning snack.   The Western Grey Kangaroo, whose fur color ranges from grey to brown, loves the lifestyle of Southern living, and can be found in the scrublands and forests of Southern Australia.



At DCCP we saw fliers with their joeys.  We  observed some of the little joeys use their powerful hind legs to quickly hop and dive back into their mother's pouch when we came near.  Many of the moms would just rise on their hind legs, using their strong tails as support, and observe us.  There were also some boomers around.  At over 4 feet in height some of the bigger guys were almost taller than my mom, and I am glad that none of them tried to engage her in a boxing match.



As we left the Conservation Park, I was pleased that I was able to share the joy of seeing a Kangaroo in the wild with my mother.  I felt that it was the perfect Mother's Day gift.