Category: Australia


Up In Mount Victoria, NSW


Only 120 kilometres west of Sydney is the small township of Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Population about a thousand. Here is a more quiet, if not more elegant section of the Blue Mountains. Beautiful manors, historic buildings reused as elegant hotels and summer retreat houses dot the landscape. There are many heritage sites in the area but they compete with the wondrous panorama at an elevation of over 1,000 meters. The mountain was named after Queen Victoria but the settlement area was originally called One Tree Hill until the arrival of the railway station and establishment of the first Post Office in the 19th century.

These days, many locals go to Mount Victoria for serious bushwalking, rock climbing, bird watching or simply to visit this charming village without the tourist crowd. There was some festivity the day we visited as we passed what looked like flea markets and food fairs. But we drove past them and began our short hike. Cox’s Road and Cox’s Descent don’t seem to sound right but that’s what the markers say. 🙄

The photos speak for themselves. I may have ventured farther than I should have — “for my age” — but the views of the valley below can be mesmerizing. I dare not even dwell on the possibilities. A strong gust of wind, an accidental slip. Oh well.


We’re done feeding the wild rainbow lorikeets , and decided we’d have more animal adventures. Bendalong Bay is not far from our homebase in Lake Conjola, and we spent the morning there watching people let loose their dogs on the beach, viewing stingrays swim near the shore, young paddlers on boards, swatting fruit flies trying to land on our cereal bars. Sun’s up and the weather’s ideal for a lazy morn.

Only one thing went wrong. Stingray feeding happens late afternoon. But no worries, we found many swim up to shore while seagulls fly above the paddlers, ducks and the pelicans. Bendalong is only a half hour north of Ulladulla and actually borders Lake Conjola National Park. The beach is good for paddle boating, surfing, swimming, fishing, and errr…. stingray feeding. I am just not sure how I’d feel swimming with these stingrays. 😜 Have a look at this video on stingray feeding in Bendalong Beach.

http://youtu.be/53O3OuAh9d0

This is Australia. The wildlife is awesome, birdwatching, bush walking and water activities the norm. Where else do you meet kangaroos in parks while you’re out intending to go kayaking or fishing? Where else can you paddle on boards while weaving through pelicans and stingrays swimming near the shore? How else can you enjoy a weekend without going outdoors? Life here is more meaningful for the outdoorsy types. Camping is always an option and bush walking is a regular activity. That is, after one does the laundry 🙄 My nephews are serious bikers and rock climbing is always a favourite sport. The girls love to shop but won’t mind weekend trips to the lake and parks. Fishing will have to wait though.

We made trips to Bendalong Bay for the stingrays and another day to Newcastle for the pelicans. Of course you’d find the seagulls almost everywhere like when we visited Kiama and Wollongong. I am amazed that all these animal and bird encounters are so freely enjoyed here in Australia. What a blessing for these Aussies!

The Pelican Feeding in Newcastle was quite a show. The feeders/carers are professionals and loved an audience and they got a pretty good sized crowd the time we visited. Weekends are never a bore. Or for that matter, neither are weekdays. The feeding show is timed daily at 4pm at the most popular tourist attraction in the Central Coast — The Entrance Waterfront. This feeding event sponsored by the Central Coast Council is quite a spectacle. I noted though that one of the volunteers clearly has a favourite among the pelicans. She calls her “One Wing” for obvious reasons. She narrated how this particular pelican lost her wing in a boat accident some years back. The upside though is this pelican will never have to go hungry as the volunteer looks for her and feeds her first. After that, the rest of the pelicans compete for the fish and other seafood scraps.


It happens daily at 3-4pm here in the park fronting Burrill Lake In Ulladulla. Open to the general public, you can come help feed these wild colourful birds who gather from all over the natural bushland for a tasty afternoon snack. The man in charge hands you a plate and the birds swoop down on your arms, hands, head and shoulders. At one point, I think I had 3 on my head and another 3 or 4 on my arm.

Call us Bird Ladies, but this was quite an experience. I had scratches all over my arms though and truth be told, I was so tense worrying the wild birds would poo on my head. I suggest you come wearing a jacket and a hat when you visit. You’d never know. But really, these wild birds look so pretty and my, were they sooooo noisy. In a nearby cage, you can have a chat with the cheeky cockatoos who never grew tired saying HELLO. There were also ducks and parrots.

Never done this before, and I was surprised they have this daily activity open to the public. It would be a truly great animal adventure for the little ones and it won’t even cost you a cent! Now this is Australia for you. Love it!


We’re on a road trip towards the South Coast. First off is Kangaroo Valley which I’ve visited some years back. (Go check the link) The Hampden Bridge is one of its attractions here, being one of only a few suspension bridges around Australia. I remember a lunch in this landmark pub and hotel called the Friendly Inn with 2 grandchildren who have since grown up. What 5 years can do!

We drove towards Lake Conjola which is really one of my favourite destinations whenever I’m in Sydney. Our family would always spend family time here but we only managed 3 of us on this trip as everyone else was busy. The resident kangaroos were too lazy to welcome us, unlike the last time I was here when we found around 30 of them Roos!

The lakeside house bears many happy memories and our stay here adds another. Revisiting the house, the lake, the nearby beach, the boardwalk, or simply walking aimlessly are favourite pastimes here. If one is into fishing, paddle boating, kayaking or swimming, there’s much to do. As for me, I’m quite happy dropping in in this heritage bakery in Milton and taking out some pies to eat in the cottage while having coffee and reading a book.

From Lake Conjola, we had the chance to drop in on nearby beaches and lakes to feed some birds and sea creatures. Upon leaving, we made our way back to Sydney with stops in Berry for a relaxing Oriental lunch at LEAF. Wish the rest of the family was with us but there would be other times, for sure.

Feel free to click on the highlighted links for more photos and details on Lake Conjola and The Heritage Bakery in Milton. Watch this site for blogs on feeding adventures with stingrays, pelicans, Lorikeets and seagulls.


We made good time. Who wouldn’t if you’re up by 6am? Took the 333 bus to Bondi where a dip in the waters was planned no matter how cold it gets. Taking the bus directly to North Bondi beats the crowd waiting for the connecting bus at the train station in Bondi Junction. It helps too that we were way too early at 6:30am. Going early was a good decision as we nearly had the entire beach to ourselves but for a few joggers, swimmers and a couple of surfers. The sun was up but the wind factor gave the chills but some of us cannot be held back from taking a brave dip in Bondi Beach.

Our trip to Bondi was timed with the annual art event “Sculptures by the Sea” where 100 artworks were on display along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. Amazing artworks but for the strong winds that compelled us to sit it out at the spot overlooking the Pacific. “Fatso” sat right where the wind went wild pushing us down to our knees. I honestly wanted to crawl away from Fatso while holding down my hat.

From Bondi, we took the 380 bus to Watson’s Bay. Feasted on Doyle’s seafood combo, fish and chips. I was so looking forward to this lunch as Doyle’s never disappoints. Except that we’ve had a similar lunch in Manly Fish Cafe the day before and had a truly remarkable lunch. Stiff competition I’d say. But I’m not complaining having both on 2 consecutive days 😊 What likely tilted the scorecard in favor of Manly Fish and Chips was the mussels cooked in fresh cream a la Moules Frites and the sweet potato fries. Next time I visit Manly, I’d likely go back to this place. On the other hand, Doyle’s Resto offers a perfect view of Watson’s Bay. Lunch here by the wharf guarantees watching several ferries loading and unloading passengers along with views of yachts bobbing up and down. For good measure, the many seagulls and pelicans lend more charm to this area.

We were happy to board the ferry from Watson’s Bay bound for Pyrmont Bay to reach Darling Harbour. It’s nearly an hour’s ride passing Rose Bay, Luna Park, Circular Quay, Barangaroo and finally Pyrmont Bay. On this ferry ride, it is easier to take shots of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and the approach to Darling Harbour. Not as many tourists as one finds on ferry rides to Manly Beach. Doing these 3 sites — Bondi, Watson’s Bay and Darling Harbour– via bus and ferry is a breeze, never mind that one has to make an early start.

I have always liked Darling Harbour. I do like it better at night though. Cocklebay Wharf Area is my favourite spot where many bistros and bars sit side by side gelaterias like Lindt’s. We made our mandatory stop here for some frozen delights. Six different ice cream flavours in ceramic cups passed clockwise amongst us. We couldn’t agree which flavour is best though. From Cocklebay Wharf, we took the escalators to get on street level and found ourselves walking towards Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Day almost over, we were a bit tired but felt we’ve spent the day very well and covered much from 6:30am to 5pm.


Last Tuesday October 16 was World Food Day. It’s also the anniversary of the founding day of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Sydney’s Noodles Market is held around this time when Hyde Park transforms itself into an Oriental food event — not necessarily limited to noodles but any Asian dish oozing with aromatic spices from the East. It’s been raining in Sydney for a week but we picked Tuesday to go to the city on a cloudy but rain-free day.

The little boy with us had so much energy in him, and that was even before his teriyaki noodle dish and creamy allo-allo mixed fruit dessert. Some parts of the park were muddy from the previous day’s rain. Luckily, Citi has a fenced-in area complete with more comfortable chairs, tables and even faux grass-carpeting. Swell! I flashed my card and claimed a table for us. We got drinks from within the reserved space but bought our food from the stalls outside.

Good thing we were early. The crowd started to build up after 5:30pm. The office crowd spilling out of the surrounding buildings and creating queues at the more popular food stalls. It’s like a hawker market but with pricier tags, and overhyped food choices. We couldn’t resist trying out the Pinoy offerings like the lechon (roasted pork @$18 and it was not even crunchy), the desserts like the allo-allo aka halo-halo which is really nothing like the popular local dessert. One dessert is even named “Thrilla in Manila” and I swear we don’t even have that kind of stuff back home.

Even the pork barbeque doesn’t remind me of home. The marinade is more Western than Asian, for sure. Oh well. The event organisers do this annually and from the looks of it, it draws a regular crowd. Next time, maybe I’d try the ramen.

Nonetheless we had a good time especially when a Lion Dance (not Dragon?) cheered up the place. The little boy perked up like crazy and we all felt the excitement! The kid jumped up and down and followed the “lion” across the park. The senior grandma struggled to follow …..

Floriade 2018 (Canberra)


I have visited Sydney many times since my sister and her family migrated here but not once have I visited the Floriade in Canberra, the nation’s capital. The visits were always off-timed and I only contented myself with photos of beautiful spring blooms from the Commonwealth Park where it’s annually held. This 2018, it was staged from September 15 to October 14, a full month, and we managed to visit on the 2nd to the last day!

Just 2.5 hours south of Sydney, the Commonwealth Park in Canberra was truly a celebration of spring blooms. Carpeted in many colours of tulips and other blooms, the lake and the Ferris wheel simply added to the park’s charm. We hardly paid attention to the market stalls and playing bands, and just took in all the splendour of Nature’s floral cheer. There was a good crowd beating the deadline (like us) but we were early. Beating the traffic and the crowds, we enjoyed the Park before it drizzled early afternoon.

The place reminded me of Keukenhof Gardens in Dutchland. There must have been a million bulbs for this year’s Floriade. I felt it’d be a waste to end the flower show while the flowers are still in full bloom! But I’ve read in today’s papers that many folks have volunteered to cut the flowers and dig up the bulbs to distribute among the community. About a hundred bucketloads have found their way to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the old and sick. Such a happy ending to this flower exhibit, don’t you think?


A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 






In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!





Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 






Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 




Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘




In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 






In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 




For more photos and details, just click on the links/highlighted headings. 

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Tassie. Short from Tasmania. Have not done enough research and planning on this trip but everything worked out well. You can say we went nearly on an impulse! Having agreed we should meet in Hobart and finally visit this island south of Mainland Australia, we promptly went to task: flight and hotel bookings ✔️, day trip bookings ✔️ to Bruny Island ✔️and Port Arthur ✔️ with sidetrips to colonial Richmond ✔️, and arranging to meet up with friends who kindly took us up Mounts Wellington ✔️ and Nelson ✔️.  Day 1 wasn’t bad at all. My friend waited for me at Hobart Airport and we took the Airport Shuttle together to our hotel. Round trip airport transfers at Au$35 per person for a nearly 1 hour ride. Taxi ride should be just half an hour but the Airporter delivers passengers to their hotels’ doorsteps, and that’s just fine. Weather forecast was good for the day we arrived and the next 2 days, so we didn’t waste time. Explored Battery Point  starting from Kelly’s Steps and walked in this lovely neighborhood past the brick warehouses in Salamanca. The walking notes I hurriedly downloaded proved to be so accurate that navigating around Hobart’s Waterfront area and neighborhood was a breeze. Just a pity that sunsets come real early this time of the year and the sea breeze can be so chilly that one easily yearns the comforts of a warm bed in the hotel room. Besides, Days 2 and 3 are early-morning calls for the Bruny Island and Port Arthur booked tours. 





Day 4. A glimpse of what’s in store at the Salamanca Market involved a quick grocery-shopping adventure for the much-talked about Tasmanian cheese, salmon pâté and Tasmanian apples, and a mid-afternoon indulgence at Daci & Daci Bakery. Prices don’t come cheap but we enjoyed everything we popped into our greedy mouths. We certainly looked forward to the Saturday Salamanca Market despite the early afternoon shower forecast that weekend.  Luckily, the rain came rather late. In fact, it came AFTER our Market visit and the drive up to Mount Wellington and Mount Nelson. But chilly, it certainly was. The lookouts gave a 360 degree view but only if you can brave the fierce winds. I took off my eyeglasses, worried they’d be blown away! Only put it back on when we reached Signal Hill in Mount Nelson where there was this lovely Brasserie where my friends Ren and Drew treated us for coffee and desserts.  (Thanks!)



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Day 5. For sure, a rainy Saturday and Sunday afternoon could only mean a couple of hours warming up in a pub, or walking around a Museum. Or hearing Sunday Mass in St. Mary’s. Or finding the oldest hotel in Australia. As claimed. Or yet another cafe or restaurant. Of the latter, there are many choices. You won’t run out of options here especially in the Waterfront area where one can indulge in seafood delicacies like Tassie salmon, oysters, trout, trevally, or even wallaby? I feel guilty to admit I actually enjoyed my wallaby burrito. 😱 Please don’t judge me. At night, we only ventured a block or so from our hotel to try Asian specialty restos like Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indian or Chinese. Well, the lady from the Tropics needed her rice to keep her warm (?!?). Not too far away is Elizabeth Mall where you can find more dining and pub options. And shopping. 









If you ask me, it’s hard to say which is the trip highlight. The food trip in Bruny Island, the open-air museum in Port Arthur, the colonial heritage town of Richmond, the leisurely strolls around the Waterfront and Battery Point, or the lookout points up in the mountains. I’d venture to say though that the Saturday Salamanca Market underwhelmed me but for that wallaby burrito episode. If you’re willing to miss it, you can book another day trip on that Saturday. Better still, move to another hotel further north in the Launceston area to visit Wineglass Bay, Cradle Mountain and Cataract Gorge. Having missed these Northern spots, I have good reason to head back. Right?  Tasmania reminds me of Batanes Island north of Mainland Philippines. Still part of the island republic but so vastly different.  Repeat visits always justified. 😊







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If there’s one single thing I’d remember from my Salamanca Market experience here in Hobart, it would have to be that I ate a wallaby. Yes, one of those cute-sy animals that look like mini or baby kangaroos. Pacha Mama did it so well, I swear I’d love to have another go if only there’s another Saturday to try it.  You see, Salamanca Market happens only on Saturdays here so unless you have a big belly room, you can’t possibly try all the foodstuff available here in one morning!






Pacha Mama also sells hot chocolate with cinnamon, chili and coconut cream that’s hard to resist. Perfect with your wallaby burrito. Then there’s the veggie (leeks, mushrooms, onions, beet) and pulled beef (PINO) empanadas too from another stall .  Both pastry pockets are good, and went well with the pebre sauce. I would have wanted to also try the Tasmanian seafood paella with all those scallops, trevally, squid and mussels looking sooo fresh. Yay!






For takeaways, one may shop for Tasmanian honey, wine, chocolates. All foodstuff. The clothing and other fashion stuff i found underwhelming, though I got a pair of earrings with local gems. 😜 I fancied the hand painted scarves and handcrafted wood earrings which look really nice but quite pricey. 






Wool, anyone? I wouldn’t have need for them back home so I skipped that. But I sure found some really funny hats, and wondered who’d wear them. Kinda bohemian while a few are  outright quirky. I wouldn’t be caught wearing any. 






I did enjoy how they advertised their producé. Tasmanian apples picked 8 pm last night? Wines sold deliberately young? I love the sense of pride attached to these local products. It’s like bringing home a part of Tasmanian pride with you. 




 

And so we ended the morning trying out stuff in this market, having a good laugh over the strange head gear, listening to really good music from street buskers,  and sitting right there in the park literally watching autumn leaves fall. Swell ❤️







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