Friday, December 24, 2010


I am heading to the outback for just over a week, so I've decided to take a break from my Blog until I get home. Besides, it is a bit hard to post when you don't have internet service. I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Natural Disaster

I have to admit that I no longer grab for my camera when I see a Koala or Kangaroo. I sometimes will pause for a look, but truthfully these animals have become a bit mundane. However, there are several Australian exotics that make me squeal with joy. Unfortunately, they are a bit harder to come by and often it takes some effort to reap the reward of viewing them in the wild. 
One of these animals is the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, and it was the hope of sighting one in the wild that had us packing up our camping gear and heading out to the Riverlands over the weekend. We had been planning the trip for weeks, and even though I had seen them a couple of times in the wild, I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably cool temperatures to head out to the semi-scrub desert of South Australia. A couple of days before we were to set out I realized that the late spring storms, that brought an abundance of much needed rain, had possibly put the animal that we were heading out to see in peril. Apparently, torrential rains had flooded the area that many South Australian Wombats call home. I could only hope the two Conservation Parks that we had planned to visit stood on high enough ground and had not been destroyed by the devastating storms.
As we drove along the cliff banks high above the Murray River, I was shocked by the scene below. The waters had breeched the river banks and the entire valley was flooded. It saddened me to think of the dozens of wombats that had built their burrows on the flood plain. From where we stood it was obvious that for a marsupials that spend more than half its lives underground, more likely than not they had suffered an untimely death. As we continued down the road, my spirits didn't improve since many of the surrounding fields high on the plateau were flooded. 

My spirits rose when we arrived at Pooginook Conservation Park. Less than 10 minutes from our campsite we found a warren with at least a half dozen entrances. With the near full moon high in the sky we sat off to the side in wait. And wait we did, but not a single critter decided to come out for a feed, and eventually we decided to call it a night and return in the early morning.
Under the predawn sky, we were better able to assess the environment and in the faint light we were able to determine that the burrows we had chosen to observe sat in the middle of a flood plain. My heart felt heavy as I looked for signs of life and questioned if the endangered species that once called this home had been overcome by a flood, or had they escaped to higher ground?  

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Man Vs' Mail

This week's PhotoHunt theme is male.

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting Kangaroo Island, we came across an interesting collection of (māl)boxes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Face To Face?

My time in croc country was quickly coming to a close and I had yet to see the world's largest reptile. I had seen plenty of signs, warnings, and even an imprint--but no sightings of the elusive animal.It was for this reason that we broke up camp at 4:30 am in the pitch dark. I energetically encouraged Mark to hurry up, since I didn't want to miss the boat. I anxiously anticipated that our trip along the Yellow Water Billabong would finally put an end to my quest to spot one of the terrors of the north. Unfortunately, the tour operator had assured us a unique experience--lots for birds and magnificent flora--but could not guarantee a face to face encounter with the ferocious giants.
Along with several dozen other bleary eyed travelers we stood in line to board the bus that would take us to the boat ramp. It appeared that most of our fellow passengers had spent the night in the lodge or taken a morning shower since they frantically swatted at the millions of mosquitos that descended upon us. Fortunately, in the predawn hours, we had used plenty of Off before we even left the tent. As a result it was the first time in 12 hours the pesky bugs were ignoring us--they had plenty of other sources to quench their bloody thirst.
The short road to the dock remained flooded--the remnants of a wet season that had extended well beyond its normal period. I couldn't help but wonder if the high waters would increase our chances of seeing a croc. Just as we boarded the boat the sun began to make itself visible on the horizon. As it made its gradual climb in the sky it brushed the grey canvas with various shades of reds, yellows and oranges.

As promised our cruise through Kakadu's most famous wetland, Yellow Water Billabong, was fruitful-- White Bellied Sea Eagle, Australian Darter, Ibis, Kingfisher, Kingfisher, Whistling Ducks, Jacana, and Jabiru were all spotted. The sing song of the different species of birds added a musical symphony to the painted landscape that lay before us--a work of art only achievable by mother nature.
Of course, for me the highlight of the trip was the sighting of several crocs. The first one was a very large male who became agro and began swatting the water as we approached. Even from a distance I was amazed by his size  and happy that we hadn't run into him on the trail. Just before we turned around and headed back to the docks a spiny back broke the lagoon surface just in front of us; he was lovely enough to hang around for some photo ops. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If It's Not A Croc, It's a Boar

Our plans to stay at Jim Jim Billabong were foiled because the isolated camping area was still closed to the public. Instead we pulled into Gagudju Lodge at Cooinda. One quick look at the campground and I knew that there was no way we would be staying the night with the masses. Dozens of Campervans and Caravans were parked one on top of another in a fenced off area. It was like the parking lot of a major mall at Christmas time, but rather than parking and rushing off into the semi-pathetic mini-mart, heaps of of Aussies and Tourists were all lounging about in front of their temporary mobile homes. From my vantage point, outside the massive chain-link fence, the campers resembled caged animals and I wondered if they felt entrapped or protected. 
We quickly filled the RAV4 with petrol and decided to call in to the information center to find about river trips. We had hopes of catching an early morning boat ride before continuing on our way to Darwin. We were in luck; the dawn tour had space. But, of course it did, since it cost $30 more than all the other river tours because it included breakfast. I knew the last thing I wanted was to spend way too much for a meal that would consist of greasy eggs and stinky sausage, but I really wanted to see the river and its wildlife at dawn. So we coughed up the money, and headed down the road to the National Park Campground.
We were unsure of what we would find, but to our relief the large campground was virtually empty. I was also happy that the generator free area was at least a 1/2 mile from the Mardugal Billabong, home to--yep, you guessed it--crocs. We found the perfect spot to pitch our tent and settled into enjoy the evening. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before hell descended upon us as millions of mosquitos came out for a feed. We were able to protect our skin with long sleeves and spray, but there was nothing we could do about the insistent drone--a noise that would stay with us throughout the entire night as the little buggers tried to make their way into the tent. And this cacophony  was interrupted  only by the distant howl of a dingo, and the snort of the wild pig that crashed through our camp in the middle of the night. As we followed the clackety clackety sound of his hooves against the ground through the bush, for a picture that wasn't captured, I began to wonder if perhaps there was a reason to stay within in the perimeter of the shiny silver cage just up the road.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Southern Kakadu Water Falls

We were headed to the more visited northern part of Kakadu, we decided to stop and stroll among the southern hills and ridges of the less visited part of the park one last time.
There were a few cars at the Yurmikmik carpark, but the occupants had already hit the trail. Originally we had hoped to hike the Motor Car circuit walk, but since parts of the walk followed the South Alligator River, where crocs were a plenty, we decided to just do the linear walk to a couple of different falls.
After crossing a swing bridge across the Plum Tree Creek we soon found ourselves in a monsoon forest. Giant Fan Palms lined the trail which followed a dry creek bed. When we began to scramble over large conglomerate and sandstone boulders we knew we were on the wrong path since we were supposed to be following a historical vehicle track--so we back tracked several hundred meters to where we had made the wrong turn.
The correct trail, which was first driven in 1946 by Paul Allmich in his Chevrolet truck, was easy to follow and it wasn't long before we were at the turn off to Motor Creek Falls. At this point there was a large group on the trail in front of us. We took advantage of them pausing for a break and quickly passed them. This was fortunate since the trail became much more technical and I would not have wanted to be stuck behind a large pack of people.  When we arrived at the towering canyon wall we were a bit taken back. Nothing had prepared us for the emerald green water that lay in front of us. We sat on the edge of the pool admiring its beauty and understanding why so many people are drawn to the Northern Territory. It wasn't long before the serenity was broken with voices and we knew it was time for us to carry on to Kurrundie Falls.
We retraced our steps to the vehicle track and continued on our way. The noon time temperatures were starting to soar. The open woodlands that we were traversing provided shade from the sun, but there was no escaping the oppressive heat. In the distance we could catch glimpses of white water cascading down the front of the brown rocky ridge--our destination. 
Once again we were required to leave the well defined track. It was obvious that this part of the trail didn't get much traffic and the single track was hard to follow in many areas. Fortunately, from our vantage point high on a plateau we were able to use the very full Kurrundie Creek as a guide. Unfortunately, the trail soon dropped us down to the riverside. Of course we could still use the river as a guide, but I was more concerned that the thick vegetation would be a perfect place for a croc waiting for lunch to come by. Since there wasn't much of a trail we ended up walking higher up along the side of the hill where we could see any dangers that lurked in the water.  
Unlike the previous perfect water hole we had visited, the Kurrundie pool was nestled high on the cliff side. There was no protection from the sun. It was impossible to reach the water to take a dip. It wasn't the perfect spot for a lunch break, but our stomachs were grumbling. So we found a rock where we could comfortably eat our lunch. It wasn't long before we had company, but this time instead a large group of loud tourist we were joined by a circling Peregrine Falcon--the perfect guest for our picnic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This week's PhotoHunt theme is funny.

When I saw this big guy taking an afternoon siesta in the sun, I couldn't help but laugh. 

The Red Kangaroo is the largest living marsupial and it can grow up to two meters (6 feet) and weight up to 90 kilos (200 pounds). Kangaroos are bipeds and their powerful hind legs allow them to move at speeds up to 56 km (35 miles) an hour. In a single bound they can travel 8 meters  (25 feet) and they can jump 1.8 meters (6 feet) high. The use their strong hind legs as a method of defense and in a fight they will hold the antagonist with their forefeet while rearing on the tail and giving powerful kicks with their back feet. The Australian giant lives across the mainland and feeds on grasses.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cataplana Al Diablo

For some reasons here in Adelaide clams (cockles here in Australia) are hard to come by. So when I saw some at the market this week I knew what we would have for diner.
Whenever working with clams I always follow Penelope Casas' instructions for prepping them: she says to scrub them, then put them in salted water with some cornmeal for several hours or overnight. The idea is that the clams eat the cornmeal, which helps them plump up as well as expel any remaining sand. I then prepare them using the following recipe that I've adapted over the years

1/2 onion finely chopped
1/2 red pepper chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2  tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 cup white wine
1 dried hot chile, crumbled
Salt, to taste

Rustic bread, to serve

Sauté the onions, garlic and pepper in the oil in a large deep saucepan (I use a Cataplana--a Portuguese cooking vessel.) When the onion is wilted, add the tomatoes, paprika, parsley, wine, salt and chile. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add clams, return cover and cook over a high flame until the clams open--discard any that do not open. Serve immediately in same dish with slices of thick rustic bread to soak up the juices.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If You Can't Beat 'Em

My first month at Burra had been rough. The kids were eating me alive, and just as I was questioning how I would make it through the school year I was called into the Principal's Office. I felt like a teenager as I sat waiting with my head hung low, wondering if I was about to be thrown out of the Teacher Exchange Program. A smile had started to cross my face as I began to dream about returning to the comforts of my own, non-graffiti filled, home back in New Mexico when Don Beschit's voice brought me back to reality.
By all indications I was to be saved the humiliation of being thrown out of the program I had worked so hard to become a part of. However, a horror of a different type was placed before me and; on Friday I was to help chaperone the 5th and 6th grade field trip. I tried to put a positive spin on the upcoming event by telling myself that the day would provide me an opportunity to first-handedly observe how the other teachers interact with and control their students.
My plans of using the excursion as a time to glean some useful tools to take back to the classroom didn't go as expected. I cowered on the sidelines as I watched 80 menacing students take over the narrow, cobblestone street of the town we were visiting. My mouth gaped open as I watched some of the little beasts climb on parked motos, bang their fists on cars, and push other pedestrians out of the way. Of my five colleagues, only one tried to gain control over the ringleaders of the out of control mob--the others ignored the situation that was unfolding before us. To my relief we arrived at the doors of the tapestry museum we had come to visit. Unfortunately, things didn't get much better. I tried to hide amongst the small group of students that were listening to the curator, but my attention was on the other students who were chatting incessantly, touching everything in sight, and throwing spit wads at the woven treasures. To this day I can not understand how we did not get thrown out of the museum. Nor could I comprehend how the teachers allowed such behavior. Was I the only one that felt guilty for the student's behavior and embarrassment for the school we represented?  Perhaps such behavior was accepted in my host country's culture.
I must admit the day was not a complete bust. Our lunch time picnic was a real eye-opener, as I learned that turning cheek is not the only tool used in coping with unruly creatures.  For over an hour the students were released in an enclosed park to do as they pleased, while the teachers headed to the kiosk and drank several beers. What could I do. When I was handed the first Cruz Campo I silently toasted--If you can't beat the students, join the teachers.

If you look under the seats you can see how some of bottles were hidden for the photo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Pool With A View

After our hike across a flood plain and some lunch we were ready for a climb. We began by calling in at the Gunlom Plunge Pool, a large natural pool set at the base of a towering escarpment. The jagged rock face was worn smooth by the seasonal waterfall, which continued to flow even though it was the dry season. 
As we skirted the large pool I spotted the white float that was being used to determine if the area was crocodile free. I closely kept my eye on the survey device waiting for it to bob up and down--the sign of a croc nibbling on the bait below. Even though it remained still, but I couldn't help but be reminded that in this part of the woods I was not at the top of the food chain.

The croc free pool (at least temporarily) was left behind as we began the steep climb through a patch of monsoonal forest and savanna woodlands. Our final part ascent included a scramble across the exposed rugged sandstone terrain, and to our relief the well marked path soon brought us to the top of the plateau. Had we not been breathless from the final exertion the scene that spread before us would have taken our breath away. It was as though we were standing on the edge of the world as we looked out across the sweeping views of the southern hills.
In addition to superb views the top of the escarpment also offers numerous rock pools. We had been told that they are salt water crocodile free, and that it is safe to take a dip. However, even though the serene water looked inviting I just couldn't overcome my fear. Instead we sat at the edge of one of the pools and enjoyed the view as we sweated profusely.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keep Your Eyes Open

I had some technical difficulties, so I am running late this week.

This week's photohunter theme is hard to find.
I know some South Australians who have lived in SA and never seen a Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat in the wild. I spotted this hard to find animal as we cruised down the highway at 100 km an hour. Mark didn't believe that I had seen one, but I convinced him to turn the car around. Sure enough there amongst several rabbits was a normally nocturnal animal having brekkie.
The Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat is one of three species of wombats. The South Australian State Animal is found in scattered areas of semi-arid scrub and mallee from the eastern Nullarbor Plain to the New South Wales border area.  The large, pudgy, burrowing mammals have sharp claws that they use to dig burrows in open grasslands and eucalyptus forests. They are marsupials and they give birth to tiny, undeveloped young that crawl into pouches on their mothers' bellies, where they will remain for about five months.  The pouch is different from other marsupials since they face backward so no dirt gets in when it is tunneling.Wombats do not have many natural predators and man is their greatest enemy. Destruction of their natural habitat as well as hunting, trapping, and poisoning has severely reduced the wombat's population in many areas, and has completely eradicated it in others. In most parts of Australia the wombat is now protected, with the exception of parts of eastern Victoria where it is classified as vermin and often shot.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Visa By Marriage

It isn't everyday that your partner comes home and announces that he is in the interview process for a job overseas, but it could happen. Seven years ago it happened to me. Within 5 days of walking through the door and making his announcement Mark was offered a job he couldn't refuse--an opportunity to work in his field in sunny Southern Spain. I'll admit that we weren't exactly living in dreary England, and it wasn't the weather that made the job offer appealing. No, it was the fact that my partner had been dreaming of returning to Spain after my year long teacher exchange (an experience I refused to repeat).
Of course I had no problem with the idea of a year or two abroad, especially if I didn't have to work. However, there was a hitch and the visa being offered to Mark was not valid for domestic partners. It didn't matter that we had been together for years, that we were in a committed relationship, or that we owned a house together. In order for me to legally accompany Mark we need the "simple" paper that showed we were husband and wife.  We never really sat down and discussed it, and there was no formal proposal; but as we stood in Kinkos faxing his signed contract we knew what had to happen. We didn't spend hours on end making wedding plans--Mark was too busy preparing to leave the country in under six weeks.
One of the most important days of my life was planned by me and my best friends. The Girls were with me for every step of the way--date, announcement party, venue, guests, reception, and ring selection. They went so far as to make the flower and cake arrangements without my input and I could not have done a better job. Both my bouquet and cake brought tears of joy to my eyes.
We began the planning with a brainstorming session that took us from a drive through wedding in Vegas to a simple ceremony at our home. We decided on keeping the pending marriage a secret until the announcement was made at our annual Christmas Tree decorating party. (You may want to note that our our yearly tree was far from traditional and consisted of a hollowed out cactus adorned with over 500 white lights and a hundred colorful hand crafted mexican tin decorations.) The sparking sight would provide the back drop for our vows.
Our small and simple ceremony occurred on Tuesday after Thanksgiving, exactly 10 years after our first kiss and 4 days before Mark was to leave to Spain. We were joined by our Parents, and my 3 B.F.F.--each playing a key role:  Bride's Maid, Best (wo)Man, and photographer. The event was presided over by one of Mark's ex-colleagues who just happened to be a Minister.  I think he did the service more as an act of friendship than as a belief in our eternal love. Maybe we shouldn't have told him we had to get married for the visa. Also, it didn't help that as Mark slipped the silver band around my finger he declared it a symbol of his freedom (it should have been love). When the ceremony was over, and the Minister walked down the path with our gift of gratitude tucked under his arm (a dozen bottles of Spanish wine), I couldn't help but wonder if he was headed home to get drunk.
With papers signed, pictures taken, and Kalhua--which my paternal Grandmother had bought in Mexico for this vary occasion when I was 6 years old--was drunk we headed to a local restaurant to celebrate a union that was going to embark us on the adventure of a life time. This all occurred 7 years ago today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


As we drove from Litchfield Park towards Kakadu Park, my crocodile fears began to return. It didn't help that the National Park was known for its crocs and that at the entrance we were greeted by a large sign warning of the eminent danger. However, with the fear came excitement and my eyes frantically darted left and right scanning the bush and waterways for the infamous creature.

Our first destination was the South Alligator River. The name is a bit of a misnomer since any large reptiles living in its waters would be crocodiles not alligators! The track to the river skirts a seasonal billabong. Due to the late spring rains there was still some water in the area. With the sun high in the sky there was not much activity, but we suspected that the area was an oasis for wildlife and birds during sunrise and sunset. After a short 2.5 km hike from the campground we arrived at the river. Signs warning of crocodiles kept me from approaching the water. Instead I stayed high on the bank and peered down at the river through the trees.

On our return trek to the campground I noticed just to the side of the trail a huge imprint in the dried mud. I couldn't help but wonder if the several meter long print was left by a croc? When I pointed it out to Mark, he argued that we were hundreds meter from the river and there was no way that impression was left by a gigantic reptile. However, later that evening while telling yarns with some fellow campers we learned that up to just a couple of weeks before the Alligator River had over-flowed and had reached the campground .  While this information allowed me to gloat over the possibility that what we saw earlier was a print left by a croc, at the same time I began to wonder if sleeping in a tent was a wise idea. Maybe there was a reason everyone had congregated in the center of the campgrounds? Would  our solitude would make us easy prey for a hungry predator. Ahhhhh, the thrill of the Australian bush. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Colorful Bliss

Last year during the Adelaide Fringe Festival I heard some people talk about the amazing experience  they had visiting Amococo. Unfortunately, I never got my act together enough to visit what was being called a strange and sensual world. However, it wasn't until I saw the surreal photos from the inside of the monumental sculpture that I realized I had missed something spectacular.
So a couple of weeks ago when I saw a similar structure sitting in the middle of  Perth, I knew I was being offered a second chance at an art experience that promised to combine light, sound and architectural form.
The plastic sculpture, Levity III, which stood in the center of Forest Plaza was designed by Alan Parkinson. From the outside it resembled an inflatable tent, but it is one of several luminaria--"a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes." Shoeless visitors are invited to move though the inflated plastic tunnels and chambers as they experience saturated and subtle hues not found in everyday life. 

My free visit to Levity III occurred on a hot spring afternoon. The temperatures inside the structure were warm, but for me this enhanced the experience, not only because of the additional stimulation of the senses, but also because it helped keep the crowds away. For nearly an hour I explored my environment in a light that appeared liquid in nature. It constantly blended, radiated, resonated, and transformed my surroundings. The calming effect of the structure was unlike anything I have experienced and I eventually had to pull myself away or risk severe dehydration.
Outside in the harsh sunlight I reflected on how while my friends and family--thousands of miles across the sea--were preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, I was thankful that I had a second chance for such an amazing experience.
Levity III left Perth this weekend, but the tour will continue in 2011, starting with Sydney. So, if you get a chance, be sure to check out an amazing piece of interactive art.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Picture Is Worth...

This week's PhotoHunt theme is written.
The giant boulders at Ubirr Rock, in the Northern Territory of Australia, are decorated with Aboriginal rock art. Some of the paintings are believed to have been painted by the first people of the creation eras. Other of the painting, such as the one above, are more recent.
The red spindly figure, Mabuyu, represents a story that warns against stealing. Bill Neidiia has written the story that demonstrates morality and the consequences of stealing.
“Mabuyu was dragging his catch on a string after a fishing expedition when a greedy person cut the string and stole his fish. That night, Mabuyu waited until the thieves had eaten his fish and were camped inside their cave near the East Alligator River. Then he blocked the cave with a huge rockNext morning they never came out. Because they pinched it they got punished. Kids, ladies and men all dead-finished."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Hubba Bubba Here

The SA blue gum is one of South Australia’s best known trees. The local indigenous tree is a medium-sized and reaches up to 30 meters in height. During the first five to ten years the tree quickly grows upward, then it slowly develops a broad, dense canopy. The bark is retained on the lower trunk but the upper trunk and branches are bare and grayish in color. The adult leaves are oval shaped and about 200 mm long. SA blue gums usually boast flowers during the autumn and winter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You May Call It Cheek, Butt I Know Better

With the current trend of snout-to-tail cuisine it isn’t uncommon to find unusual animal parts--tail, cheek, belly, brains, and bone marrow--showing up in gourmet grocery stores and on menus everywhere. For that reason I wasn’t surprised to learn that my father had some crab cheeks in the freezer. In fact, my mouth began to water as I remembered the yummy halibut cheeks we cooked up last year. However, when I saw the palm sized medallions I couldn’t help but wonder who was the butt of this unusual joke. Unless the meat before me was harvested from a King Kong sized crab there was no way we were about to eat crab cheeks. Then it dawned on me that they were not crab cheeks, but rather a crab’s cheek, and that we were about to prepare a meal of crab butt.

I guess this Alaskan delicacy, which slowly is making its way to the lower 48 states, can’t exactly market itself as butt, and tail would probably leave consumers envisioning something lobster like. So crab cheek, though perhaps a bit misleading, is the perfect name for that part of the crab that was previously left out of the kitchen.
Poached in a simple wine sauce our meal exceeded expectations. The meat was not the dense morsels that I associate with crab knuckles and legs. Instead, it was delicate and flakey, with a sweet and subtle flavor. I am not sure texture and flavor of the crustacean’s tail-end will be enough to win over leg-lovers. However, I do see a following among those who prefer a less messy, hassle free dining experience.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Juicy Peddler

 This week's PhotoHunt theme is juicy.
On a Saturday morning at the Victor Harbor Market this peddler will spin your choice of ingredients into a juicy beverage.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Cruise With Temptation

It is not uncommon to see dolphins swimming in the waters around Glenelg. On a cool fall morning last year I headed out on Temptation Cruises hoping to get a closer view of the magnificent animal. I am not much of a water lover, so I skipped the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, though there were a couple of brave souls that took to the waters. The cruise was a success and in the 3.5 hours that I was aboard the 58ft catamaran I saw over a dozen different dolphins

Most of our sighting were of bottlenose dolphins. Some of the mammals were on their own and others were in pods. The color of the bottlenose dolphin varies considerably, but generally this type of dolphin is light to slate grey. In our waters these animals can grow up to 2.8 meters long and weigh as much as 270 kilograms. The South Australian bottlenose dolphin’s diet primarily consist of fish and squid. They eat approximately 8 kilogram each day. They generally hunt individually, but when a food source is found pods will work together. I am glad that I did not resist Temptation, a memory that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mt Crawford

A couple of weeks ago our hopes of spending the day on the trail were washed out by torrential spring time rains. Instead, we decided to spend the day driving the back country roads, exploring the Adelaide Hills area. To our surprise, less than an hour from town we came across Mount Crawford Forest Reserve, a wooded area that offered a variety of hiking trails and several camping areas. We decided that, weather cooperating, we would return the following weekend to camp and do some additional exploring.
Mother Nature was on our side and the following weekend we headed for the hills. We decided to try our luck at Rocky Paddock, a fairly large campground nestled amongst an old pine plantation. When we arrived there were a couple of other campers nestled amongst the rocky outcrops. We headed to one of the more secluded edges and pitched our tent. We could only hope that no one would come along while we were out on the trail and set up camp right next to us. Once we had our territory staked out we hit the trail. 
The land, which was bought in 1909, has been used as eucalyptus and pine plantations since 1914. Currently 70,000 tons of timber is harvested annually from the area.  A variety of trails and tracks allow visitors to meander through a varied of landscape of eucalyptus, pine and native bush. Of course, since the trails traverse plantations, the tree groves are in different stages of the logging process. During our 5 hour loop we were treated to a walk amongst baby pine trees and some lumbering giants, as well as offered an opportunity to first handedly observe the destructive nature of the logging industry. The highlight of the day was our climb of Little Mount Crawford, where the land around the 525 meter peak has been left in its native state.
Mount Crawford Reserve is the perfect place for a day-trip or an overnighter. In addition to three camping areas that offer basic facilities there are numerous picnicking areas. However, visitors need to be aware that camping is only permitted from April through November, and there are strict fire restrictions. For more information about the area visit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will I Be Driven To Drink?

When Lily and I became partners in the Teacher Exchange Program we spent some time via e-mail and telephone calls describing our job and homes. I tried my best to inform her of what the work expectations would be, and I even went as far as having my position changed from a regular classroom teacher to a pullout Spanish Language Teacher. I figured the demand and pressure would be less, and this would allow Lily to better enjoy her time in the States. I assumed that as a professional, that she would ensure I knew all I needed to about her position, to help in my transition and smooth year.
After my arrival in Murcia and the discovery of the wonderful artwork in her house I should have suspected that perhaps she hadn't been completely forthcoming. 
I was shocked to discover that she had somehow managed to forget to mention that the town I was to teach in had suffered a major earthquake the previous year. Now this would not have changed my decision to participate in the program. After all, I had already survived an earth shaking moment in Mexico City. However, the fact that the local school had been completely destroyed and  classes were being held in temporary structures may have made me think twice about what I was committing to.
I learned of the situation as we drove to Burra. My new compañeros explained that the school was now divided into two parts. The older students, those that I would mainly be working with, were taught in a building on the outskirts of town. The building, normally used for storage, had been graciously lent to the public school district by the private school that owned it. All I could think was that a private school's warehouse couldn't be that bad, or could it? What I envisioned didn't prepare me for the decrepit building that stood amongst the fruit orchards. From the outside the dilapidated building looked better suited for destruction than education. The inside wasn't much better. I was beginning to wonder about Lily's real motivation for her participation in the Teacher Exchange Program.

I was introduced to the 5 teachers I would be working with. They each had their own classroom. However, due to a lack of space I was left "classroomless". Not ideal for the language teacher who needed lots of visuals and manipulatives to aid in the process of language learning. I quickly reflected on the roving language teachers back in the States, lugging their gear from room to room in a cart; I figured I could work something out. However, my optimism quickly dwindled as I was shown what would be my storage space in the lounge--a bottom shelf of a bookshelf that was already home to a couple of bottles of booze. I couldn't help but wonder if they were left by Lily or the tool necessary for my survivial.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Zealand Fur Seal

New Zealand fur seals are found in Australia, New Zealand and some sub-Antarctic islands. This guy was seen on Kangaroo Island-- home to over 30,000 of the eared seals. 
The New Zealand fur seal is distinguished from Australian fur seals by their smaller size and darker coloration. The bulls can reach up to 2.5 meters in length and weigh between 120-180 kilograms. The cows are much smaller and do not exceed 1.5 meters in length and they weigh between 35-50 kilograms.
New Zealand Fur seals feed mainly on squid and octopus during the summer months, and fish during the winter. Occasionally they will supplement their diet with small birds. Fur seals feed over vast distances and females are often away from the colony for several days before returning to feed their pups.
Fur seals were hunted in the early 1800's for their dense fur coats and blubber. An estimated 1.5 million of the animals were killed between 1792 and 1948. Today New Zealand fur seals are a protected animal though they remain on the list of Vulnerable Species.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Back Scratcher Needed

This week's PhotoHunt theme is itchy.
High in the Peruvian mountains at Abra La Raya Pass locals sell their colorful handwoven wears. I found the alpaca wool used in the textiles to be very soft and not at all itchy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SA Wave

The bright sun called me to the balcony, but whether or not I would open the doors was yet to be decided. The gentle rolling in waves from the northwest suggested I might be able to sit outside for my morning coffee. Sure enough, as I opened the doors I was greeted with a warm breeze. 
As I stood and took in the beauty around me I noted that the bike path and beaches were relatively empty. I knew that it wouldn't be long until the scene before me filled with people.  A smile came to my lips as I imagined the dozens of walkers, runners, rollerbladers and cyclist cruising the urban trail all at their own speed. I easily envisioned each of them frantically waving their hand in a sweeping motion across their faces. From my vantage point this simple motion would appear to be a friendly gesture--perhaps the result of the hormonal surge driven by the arrival of spring--but for those who have walked the urban jungle there is the understanding that this is not a symbol of friendship or love. Instead, it is a gesture that attempts to ward off the evil creatures that the warm winds bring in from the bush. The battle between human and the australian fly will have begun. 
It seems so unfair that the warm winds of the north beckon us to revel outdoors, and at the same time they torture us by bringing the pesky bush fly to our urban setting. Oh, how I loath the little creature that continuously attempts to crawl into my mouth, ears and nose. Waves, salutes, and swats seem to have no effect on the irritating pests; in fact, the only way to be rid of them seems to be by adding them to one's diet and ingesting them whole. Fortunately, for now I will be granted respite from the unpleasant critters swarming the streets below since it appears that bush flies are afraid of heights. However, I know there is a battle awaiting me once I step out into the urban jungle.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Today I was once again reminded of the armistice which ended the First World War. At 11 am my pilates class observed a minute of silence in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts. 
In my travels across Australia I have yet to visit a town, no matter how small or isolated, that did not have some type of commemorative war memorial. However, it is each November 11th when I watch those around me--whether it be in a pilates class, at the botanical garden, or on an airplane--that I am reminded of just how seriously Australians take remembering those who have sacrificed their lives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is one of Australia's best known parrot. Its white plumage is highlighted by  distinctive yellow crest and the underside of its wings are tinged yellow.
This naturally curious birds is found in a variety of timbered habitats throughout northern, eastern and southwestern part of the continent. They are tend to avoid arid inland areas with few trees.    
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's diet consist of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more member of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch. Each day the flock returns to the same area until the food supply is exhausted.  When not feeding, the birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. However, these items are not eaten, but rather an activity to help keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large. 
Near urban areas the species is often considered a pest  because they can be destructive to timber structures and many people find their distinctive raucous call annoying. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This One Is For The Birds

In Spain we lived across from El Bosque, a lively bar that served cafe and anise to the viejos and politicos during the week and churros and chocolate to the church goers on Sunday. From my second story vantage point I could keep tabs on the coming and going of the who's who in Utrera. However, it was those that hung out at the roof top cantina that provided me the most entertainment.
Rain or shine, day or night dozens of pigeon would congregate on the slanted tile roof. For hours on end I would watch them feed, fight, fornicate and once in a while drop little presents on the unsuspecting patrons sitting on the patio below. However, the favorite pastime of the non-paying customers seemed to be just lazing around. Occasionally a loud noise would cause the masses to take to the air but it wouldn't take long for the birds to return to their lounging spot.
One sunny spring afternoon I was awakened from my afternoon siesta by a flurry of noise. The crystal blue sky was filed with a gyrating mass. Round and round the plaza the birds flew, filling the sacred Spanish rest hour with loud squawks. At first I was confused by the sudden movement. I had never seen the normally lethargic animals so agitated. I thought that perhaps a  cat had managed to invade their space. As I scanned the roof, a dark shadow of a large bird swept across the tiles. I knew what was about to happen. I shifted my gaze to the sky just in time to watch a large hawk, with extended talons, sweep down and snatch a pigeon mid-air. With its trophy secure the predator gracefully landed on the roof, where for the next hour it slowly devoured its prey. As I watched in awe, I couldn't help but wonder if had just witnessed a magical moment in the wild kingdom or a brutal massacre.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Map Kernow

Hundreds of Cornish miners dug shafts and tunnels with pick and and shovel to find the rich copper ore at Kapunda mine. The influence of these miners on the mining industry in SA was commemorated by a memorial built in 1988. 
The 7 meter (23 ft) statue depicts a Cornish miner clad for work--a resin hardened felt hat with a candle stuck on the brim, mallet, pick and spare tallow candles around his neck.
The memorial, known as Map Kernow or the Son of Cornwall, was built by Ben van Zetten and is regarded as one of Australia's Big Things. The original fiberglass statue was destroyed by fire in 2006, when a local teenager attempted to take a photo of the statue surrounded by a "ring of fire."  Unfortunately, accelerant splashed on the statues leg causing the actual statue to burn. Fortunately, the statue was well insured and on June 3, 2007 a new bronze statue was rededicated on the same site of the old one, just a year after the original was destroyed.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Staying Alive In The Bush

This week's photohunt theme is alive.

Since 1928 the dream of uniting medicine, aviation and radio have been used to keep people "alive" in the remote Australian outback.
The Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service began with a single-engine airplane chartered from QANTAS. The service provided a sense of safety for the inhabitants of the remote areas of the continent as 2 doctors brought the only medical care to the area of almost 2 million square kilometers. 
The name of the operation was changed to the Flying Doctor Service in 1943, and within ten years, with the Queen's approval, Royal was added to to the title.
Today the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), operates with 53 fully instrumented aircraft from 21 bases across Australia. Each year the RFDS pilots fly the equivalent of 25 round trips to the moon, allowing doctors and nurses to care for nearly  270,00 patients. The dedication of this internationally recognized Australian Institution ensures that people across the continent are guaranteed quality health care.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


In the 1840's South Australia was languishing in the economic doldrums. Fortunately, sheep grazier Francis Dutton stumbled over some moss colored stones. An assay of the rocks (which took over 2 years to complete since they had to be sent to the UK) determined the find to of the highest grade of copper ore found any where in the world. Dutton and his partner quickly bought up the land and Kapunda, Australia's first mining town, was born.
Mining dominated the town for more than 30 years, and it is said that the million pounds worth of copper it produced saved South Australia from bankruptcy. When the mine closed in 1877, the town became the center for a thriving pastoral industry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Things Legends Are Made Of

In the mid 1900's buck jumpers from across Australia were drawn to Marrabel, South Australia to try and tame the squealing and bucking Curio.
Curio, a three year old brumby mare, was mustered on Macumba station in the northern part of the state in 1945 and consigned to the town Marrabel.  
In 1947 the wild-eyed, squealing, bucking, strawberry roan became a feature of the Marrabel Rodeo. She had gained legend status as she quickly and easily disposed of some of the countries best rough-riders.  It wasn't until 1953 that Curio finally meet her match and Alan Woods managed to finally ride the tempestuous ball of fury for a full ten minutes.
The above statue is a tribute to Wood's famous ride. It was created in 1991 by Ben Van Zetten. The cold cast bronze monument measures 18 feet tall and weighs two tons. It can be seen in the Marrabel, SA. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

This week's PhotoHunt theme is dark.
dark, humid limestone cave in Tasmania is the perfect place to look for glow-worms. 
Glow worms are not really worms, but the luminous larval stage of a fungus gnat. One can only assume that the misnomer  is due to the fact that glow-worm sounds more aesthetically pleasing than glow-larva.
Glow-worms can be found in the rainforests, caves and abandoned gold mines of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. 
The small insects do glow as a result of chemical reaction in their abdomen produces a cold blue light. 
The bioluminescent taillight is used to lure insects to the glow-worm's elaborate traps which consist of anywhere between 10 to 50 plus vertical hanging threads of silk studded with sticky droplets of mucous.
The life cycle of a glow worm involves four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult fly.  Eggs are laid in small batches directly onto the walls of the site. Depending on the seasonal conditions at the time of egg-laying, the emergence of larvae from the eggs can take anywhere from three to six weeks to hatch. Due to the proximity of eggs laid in each small batch, cannibalism is common if there is a lack of an alternative food source for the larvae.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gosses Bluff

Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Alice Springs are common destinations for visitors to Australia's Red Center. All three of these "must sees" make the distance traveled to arrive at the center of a very large continent well worth the trip. But visitors should take a few extra days for some outback exploration, because there is plenty more out there. 
I strongly recommend Gosses Bluff, a crater-like formation that measures 5 kilometers in diameter and 150 meters in height, located 175 km west of Alice Springs. It is believed that the rock-rimmed hole was created millions of years ago when a very large comet or meteorite crashed into the earth. The original scar would have measured 22 kilometers in diameter, but over time erosion reduced it to it's present day size.

For the local Western Arrernte Aboriginal People, the site is known as Tnorala, and it is a sacred place. The traditional owners of the land believe that Tnorala was formed when a group of women danced across the sky as the Milky Way. During this dance a mother put her baby to rest in its wooden baby-carrier. The carrier toppled over the edge of the dancing area, crashed to earth, and forced the rocks upward, forming the circular mountain range. The baby's parents, the evening and morning star (Venus) continue to search for their baby.
Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) is a day-use area, with picnic facilities and short walks.