Singapore Fling

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The Cloud forest edited by Google Photos

Sometimes, when you least expect it, something wonderful happens. My friend Annie decided to celebrate a special birthday in Singapore and invited us along.  We were delighted to accept and looked forward to a week of fun filled days as we explored this jewel of the East.

Flying out of the Gold Coast airport to Singapore on Scoot Airlines, the new budget offering from Singapore Airlines, was so much better than we expected: the new dreamliner was reasonably comfortable, the service good and best of all, we arrived at a civilised time in the afternoon. A celebratory drink and delightful dinner was enjoyed by all at our hotel, the Pan-Pacific at Marina Bay.

A brief foray into the immediate surroundings brought unexpected delights, including an indoor aquarium constructed entirely from balloons.

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I particularly liked the turtles and Nemo is hiding down the back. This installation was in the Marina Mall. We soon discovered that Singapore is a Mall, Mall World!

But it was  time for birthday shenanigans. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, we lazily drifted about the pool and reclined on day beds sipping champagne, while we nibbled the first of two birthday cakes (courtesy of the hotel).

We were resting, preparing ourselves for the birthday feast: the seafood buffet at the Edge Restaurant in the Pan Pacific.

Lobster, prawns, chilli crab, sashimi, prawns, oysters. salmon … what to choose? We took it very slowly, pacing ourselves, savouring each morsel, each of us designing our own perfect combination. A special feature of the buffet were the live food stations. You could just go and request a particular seafood speciality and they would cook it to order and bring it out to you. Magical.

After such a meal, it was time to explore Marina Bay. Singapore’s skyline is amazing and a photographer’s paradise.

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The Helix bridge takes you across to the Sands Hotel and Casino and the Science Museum
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The roof petals of the Science museum served as the screen for a laser light show that lit up the bay each evening.
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Lovely
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Knowing that there is an enormous infinity pool on the top is mind blowing! An amazing structure.

It was lovely to see how children are catered for in these open public places. While we were in Singapore, an inflatable Art Zoo, a kind of floating, giant, jumping castle was installed beside the helix bridge and the kids and their parents had a ball.

We enjoyed walking around the bay to the Merlion park where we found a cafe that was actually open for breakfast.

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Just love all the red frangipani trees. Kenn and Annie soaking up the morning sun.

The views across the bay in the morning light were wonderful.

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We virtually had the place to ourselves. At 9am, the crowds arrived

It was time to venture further afield. Becoming real tourists, we boarded the wacky duck, a remodelled WWII amphibious vehicle to explore Singapore’s landmarks by sea and by land. It was great to view familiar sights from the water but we made the mistake of sitting down the back and much of the commentary couldn’t be heard over the roar of the engines.

And in the evening dusk, as torchlight beckoned and the fire dancers performed, we met some of the residents of the Night Zoo.

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So funny to catch someone taking the same photo as me with the same phone!

Mastering the MRT, we wandered through the crowded alleyways of Chinatown. I was looking for toddler pyjamas.  I remembered how adorable Christian had looked in his pale green, Chinese pyjamas and how much he loved them, so wanted to find something similar for Genevieve and Hudson.  I bargained hard!  And super cute silk pyjamas found their way into my bag. Looking back though, I don’t know who came out on top; the shopkeeper or me … a number of other items suddenly seemed essential … and the shopkeeper was smiling as she took my money.

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Chinatown was street food heaven. Couldn’t believe the feast you could have for a couple of dollars.

We couldn’t resist the novelty of the Gourmet Bus either.

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The food was light but delicious. Perfect for lunch. Great host, informative but not overwhelming.

This was an indulgent way to see more of the city including a quick taste of the Gardens by the Bay where the dinosaurs, who were visiting for the school holidays, said ‘hello’.

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What do I spy with my little eye? Five Aussie tourists …

We returned later that afternoon, to explore the two giant glasshouses and watch the light and sound show in the Super Tree grove. The Flower Dome features plants from temperate, alpine and desert regions of the world. It was cherry blossom time and the bottom floor of the glasshouse was awash in blossom.

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Unfortunately, it seemed as if everyone in Singapore had the same idea as us! People outnumbered the flowers!

I particularly liked the English garden where favourite characters hung out.

And here and there were sculptures created out of natural materials and a 2000 year old olive tree!

But the Cloud Forest was even more spectacular and far less crowded. Here, the Singaporeans have created a mountain complete with waterfall, inside a gigantic glasshouse that you can meander down.

 

It gives a whole new meaning to a vertical garden! You walk around the base of the mountain, pass a garden constructed out of lego to a lift which takes you to the summit of the mountain. There you can  gaze back over the gardens towards Marina Bay.

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Shades of grey in the glooming

There was so much to see as we walked down.

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So many shades of green.

A reflection pool complete with dragonfly,

20170318_203443an amazing array of plants,

framing all sorts …

20170318_203423_001a crystal cavern

20170318_204824_001and a secret garden.

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The plants are real, the crocodile is not.

But the best was yet to come. We found ourselves a spot in the Super tree Grove to watch the free light and sound show. It was wonderful.

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Just a little taste.

Sentosa Island was our destination for the following day. We caught a taxi to the island and used the free public transport to get around.

The luge was on the agenda.  I remembered my previous encounter with the luge in Queenstown, New Zealand. Driving my sled in a suitably safe manner, I was shocked when an overtaking six year old told me, not too politely, to shift it. This time I was determined to find my inner formula I driver.  And I did … on the third and final run!

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Speed demons!

Then it was time for a dip in the South China Sea before a delightful lunch overlooking the sea, complete with Singapore slings.  A cable car ride to Mount Faber followed. A delightful way to see the city.

It was time to say goodbye to the birthday party for a day or so. Kenn and I were lucky enough to spend a couple of nights with our nephew, Ben, his lovely wife Deanna and beautiful baby Lewis. Has it been your experience, that where ever you go in the world, you run into someone from your past? This time, we shared a lovely evening with Kenn’s Aunty Norma and his cousins, Pat and Lynn who hail from Condobolin and Parkes in the Central West of NSW. They were visiting Pat’s son Raymond who coincidentally lives in the same complex as Ben and Deanna.  It’s definitely a small world. It had been over 20 years since last we’d yarned but it seemed like yesterday. Family is like that. Guided by Deanna, we explored the beautiful Singapore river like an expat: Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay and Orchard Road. Beautiful by day and by night.

All too soon, our final day arrived. We visited some of the colonial buildings: the Art Gallery, Raffles, the Museum and Canning Park where we had farewell drinks.

What is your favourite memory of Singapore, the lion city?

Too often, Singapore is seen as a stopover destination – a place to spend a few hours on the way from Australia to Europe. But I think that you need more. After a week, there was so much we didn’t see or experience. On our next trip perhaps?

Tour de Byron (for beginners): Stage 1

Have you noticed how popular bike riding has become?  And how seriously many take a recreational ride on the ‘treadly’?  Not content to just ‘get back on the bike’,  some are even willing to don padded lycra which enhance their posterior curves!  While such dedication is not for us, Kenn and I have got back into riding in a low key, purely recreational manner. We have uncovered a series of short, easy yet scenic bike rides, in and around Byron that we, very much tongue in check, like to think of as the ‘Tour de Byron.’

We were inspired to buy new bikes and hit the bike trails following a visit to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, where bikes are the transportation of choice. The island is only 11km long and 4.5km wide, making it easy to explore with a number of great trails to follow.

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Soon, we were zooming  up and down car-free, paved tracks exploring beautiful bays, jetties, beaches and a beautiful Lighthouse. Even the pelicans said ‘hello’!

I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to roll along with the wind in your hair, putting in a bit of effort here, gliding along there. We even spotted a couple of quokkas and a great pub. Perfect for a well earned refreshment after such strenuous activity.

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Back on the east coast, we set about getting ourselves some bikes. This was not an easy task as there are ‘bikes’ and then there are ‘real bikes’. Not wishing to remortgage the house, we decided on fairly basic, comfortable models. Mine is a lovely grey and white number with a retro feel,  complete with basket. It also has a lovely padded seat; no need for lycra! I will admit to finding the gears a trifle challenging … a work in progress.

With bikes sorted, Kenn and I explored the bikes paths and rides in and around Byron. We thought that like the famous tours, we would allocate a stage to each ride, beginning with the easiest.

Stage I of the Tour de Byron: the Suffolk Park Bike Track

This is a great track for beginners and one of my favourites. I can roll down the hill from my place to the Soccer Grounds.

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Past a lovely avenue of trees and
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the ever expanding community garden with the children’s playground in the distance.

A little bit of cross country riding and I am at the roundabout in front of the BP service station on Broken Head Rd. Here I have to dismount and walk my bike across the road, but it’s no hardship because I have time to admire the waterlilies beside the path.

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Having crossed the road, I remount and ride around the Pub and past the Suffolk shops. I resist the urge to stop at the Bakery for a coffee and cake. I tell myself, I haven’t burnt enough calories yet.  I weave through Suffolk Park until at the far end of Alcorn Street, I reach the official beginning of the bike path. There are various exit points on this part of the path which lead directly onto the beach as well.

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The path  meanders through the heath, following  the sand dunes and comes out just south of the High School

It is a lovely feeling riding along the path with the scents of the bush and the sounds of the surf and birdsong all around.

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It’s not too hot, as there is quite a lot of dappled shade to keep you cool

Occasionally, I encounter someone walking along the path, usually with their dog. I haven’t run anyone over …  yet. I’ve noticed that people tend to move very quickly when I call out as I ring my bell, ‘ Beginner bike rider coming through!’

My favourite part of the track is crossing Tallow Creek. The light on the water is always changing, always beautiful.

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The storm is building up in the distance

It’s also a test of my riding. A certain amount of speed is necessary to stay steady and not wobble on the wooden bridge.

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Over the bridge, I leave the beach behind, following the track back to Broken Head Road. Here I could turn right and ride into town or turn left and ride home. I choose to ride home. A 6km ride is just perfect for this beginner!

 There are various bike rental shops in Byron if you don’t have your own or you’re visiting offering reasonable rates. It’s a great way to see more of the Bay than the main street.

I hope that you will join me on the next installment of my Tour de Byron,  as I discover more easy rides,  putting  pedals to the test in and around this beautiful town.

Pig House Flicks in Byron Bay

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Byron’s alternative cinema is a pleasant way to spend a hot or wet afternoon

Until relatively recently, Byron Bay could offer locals and visitors a choice of two cinema venues: a  Palace multi-plex, located  adjacent to the Woolworths supermarket in Johnson St  and the more eclectic Pig House Flicks which is snuggled into the Byron Brewery at 1 Skinners Shoot Rd, Byron Bay.

However, the Palace complex is currently being expanded and rebuilt and won’t be open for some time. So, unless you want to travel to Ballina or further afield to catch the latest block buster, Pig House Flicks is the place to go.

Although  Pig House Flicks   shows the latest releases a week or two after the main release, it offers a unique, relaxing cinema experience. Check out what’s on offer at https://www.pighouseflicks.com.au.   In air conditioned comfort, you can pop a cushion behind your back as you lean back in your two seater lounge  for an unimpeded view of the big screen. Soon we were immersed in the sound and colour of La La Land. I now appreciate why it is in the running for the Oscars. We loved it.

And how many cinemas do you know are located next to a micro- brewery? Fancy a beer after the show? And how many offer a wonderful space for a bite to eat or a funky beer garden where there is always live music to enjoy?

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The cafe space has been newly refurbished  and is very inviting. However, we were disappointed that the new owners have chosen to go the upmarket, hipster route in regards to the menu. Their share plates are not generous or unique  enough for the price in my opinion. We miss the old, two for one deals that the Brewery was famous for.

One more thing to note. The cinema is relatively small so if you are hoping to see a popular film, you might like to get there a little early. Pig house flicks have some pleasant waiting areas.

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Love all the wood and access to the outdoors.

While I miss some of the films that Palace Cinemas had access to, I  really enjoy seeing a film at the Pig House Flicks. I think you might too.

Summer Garden

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I love how Google Photos randomly chooses a pic to enhance. Which version do you prefer? 

‘Mum, you’ll love the camera! It even has a beauty tool!’

‘ A beauty tool?’

‘It makes your selfies look great!’

I’ve never taken a selfie, but now that I have a beauty tool at my disposal, you never know … maybe I’ll be able to master the knack … It’s a temptation, isn’t it – a new and improved you for all the world to see!  Maybe when it’s not so hot and sticky and I feel inclined to use a hair dryer … and put some make-up on … and wear something not resembling a tent! To put the phone’s camera to the test however, I decided to experiment on the garden instead. Before it wilts  horribly under the onslaught of the heatwave affecting most of Eastern Australia.

Up till now, the garden has survived the summer really well. It’s rained at just the right time so everything has grown madly as usual. Late spring saw the front yard come alive when the flame tree and white Jacaranda flowered. But these soon gave way to a beautiful leafy canopy, wafting around in the afternoon sea breeze.

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What a change!

For the first time, our hydrangeas looked lovely. Even though it rains a lot in Byron Bay, where we live is very sandy. No amount of soil improvement has been enough to sustain hydrangeas in open garden beds, so last autumn,  I transferred all of them to self watering pots, gave them a specialised fertilizer and they have bloomed all summer, in shades of blue, pink and white.

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The white one has been my favourite but they’re all pretty, I think.

The creepers and the butterfly bush have flowered all summer too and are still punching out flowers giving us something to admire as we have our morning  tea on the back patio.

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Unlike some butterfly bushes, this is a prolific orange variety
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Deep red, pink and while mandevilias  just flower and flower

And for the first time, the varieagated ginger flowered. Together with the bromeliads, they have brightened up the under story of the Frangipani tree.

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How amazing is that flower! Hope I have the name right… the plant was a gift from a friend so hopefully I’ve remembered correctly

Everywhere I look, plants need pruning but they will have to wait until its cooler. Meanwhile, we just have to duck our heads as we wander around.

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The veggie garden is looking a bit sad. The tomatoes are nearly finished, the rhuburb has turned up its toes and died as has the greek basil and our espaliered lemon tree. On a positive note, the passionfruit are ripening nicely and the herbs are hanging on.

The summer garden continues to surprise us. We spotted the pink and red frangipani  just beginning to flower, yesterday. It’s very late but I planted them in a very shady spot when they prefer full sun.

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from little cuttings, big things grow

 So I’ve experimented! Still lots to learn including the beauty and panorama features but my phone has given me a snapshot of the summer garden with. the tap of a finger. Ah technology, you’ve got to love it! I hope your garden is surviving as well.

Summer daze in Byron Bay

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Sunset beach walks along Main Beach

Despite traffic gridlock, long supermarket queues, tourists occupying all the best spots at my favourite cafes and an inability to snag a rock star park at the beach,  I have to admit that this summertime, the livin’ has been easy  in Byron Bay and we have enjoyed that  ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling.’

Looking back, 2016 was a big year for us: travel to distant destinations both abroad and here in Australia, the arrival of our first grandson, beautiful Hudson, ‘ Huddie’  James  and our daughter Lyndsay’s picture perfect wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania among the many highlights. By mid November we were ready to relax and  get into the holiday groove. The Christmas tree went up and channeling that ‘peaceful, easy feeling’, I shopped early. I found I had time to wander, consider and unearth! My former self; a demented banshee rushing around in a blind panic trying to find the perfect present at the last minute and failing miserably, was banished … hopefully forever.

So with gifts nestled beneath the tree, we threw ourselves into the revelries of the silly season: parties and drinks with friends and of course, Carols at the ‘Byron at Byron.’ one of the premier resorts in Byron Bay.  Nestled in coastal rainforest, the staff welcomed us with a glass or two of champagne on the deck (helps to lubricate the vocal cords) and offered delicious bites both traditional and local.  Who could resist a delicious mince tart or a Bangalow Pork roll or a nibble of this or a nibble of that?  Certainly not us! Our group  was soon in a very festive mood.

 

And so we sang, mostly in tune, as the dusk closed in. Luckily the choir was loud enough to make us all sound ‘joyful and triumphant’.

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Our singing mingled with the ‘songs’ of the black cockatoos who, according to the Bundjalung people, herald in the New Year!

The peaceful, easy feeling just grew and grew.  Melissa and Ben hosted Christmas Dinner on the deck of their home in beachside Byron. Everything was just perfect. And I didn’t have to stress about a thing.

All I had to do was cook a turkey and make a couple of salads to contribute to the festive fare. So easy. So delightful. So restful.

 Even Ninja got into the holiday spirit as we exchanged gifts.

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What’s Santa bringing me ?

All of Ben’s family had traveled from Adelaide to share Huddie’s first Christmas. Who would have thought that a roomful of adults could be spellbound as a 7 month old baby opened his first Christmas presents! And there were a lot of presents to open.

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Eventually, it was time to return home. Christian, Kelly and little Genevieve were arriving the next day for a week. The cousins would meet for the first time!

And Genevieve traveled to Coomera to play with her great grandfather and mother and enjoy a swim with Nemo and Dad in their pool. It’s a special moment to see four generations all together these days.

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Come on Dad, can’t this fish swim any faster?

And I  got to play sandcastles with Genevieve and Huddie at Lake Ainsworth, located next to the surf club at Lennox Head and take them both for a swim. Watching their expressions as little waves washed over their feet and their toes dug into cool soft sand was everything I thought it would be. That  beach holiday feeling had arrived.

Even though the days were hot, they were perfect for long evening walks along the beach.

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misty magic

Even one of the locals joined us entranced by the sunset.

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And when the clouds rolled in,  the sky seemed to say, ‘look at me, look at me

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Mirror heaven

Despite the traffic and the arrival of bluebottles on a couple of occasions, we lolled around in the surf and  when the waves permitted, caught a few in to shore. It’s reassuring to know that you haven’t lost the knack.

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That rush when the wave takes you …so good!

We have enjoyed leisurely breakfasts  and evening barbecues on the patio while the cat has played with his holiday treat, a cardboard castle.

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Will I fit?

And there’s something about watching the cricket and tennis  in the heat of the day. that is deeply relaxing, I find.

And so our summer continues:  early morning games of golf, lighthouse walks, swimming and kayaking  in the lake and in the bay and a new arrival to welcome  and a special birthday celebration in March to look forward to.    Yep, that ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling’  is definitely here. Hope your summer has been as enjoyable.

Rocky Mountain High – Jasper in June

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Lake Maligne as viewed from Spirit Island

Sometimes,when travelling, the weather gods are not on your side! Driving  from Clearwater to Jasper,  on the third leg of our road-trip  we intended to stop and see Mt Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. However, we couldn’t  soak in what is apparently an amazing view as we found ourselves surrounded by thick mist. All was not doom and gloom however for as we climbed higher, we drove out of the mist into the sun and found ourselves surrounded by the awesomeness of Jasper National Park. Nestled in its heart is the charming town of Jasper, where we settled into our own little cabin in the woods, a charming and comfortable lakeside cottage for two at Patricia Lake Bungalows.

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Patricia Lake from the porch of our cottage. It was  cold when we were there, so didn’t try the canoes. I probably wouldn’t have fallen in but you never know …

As we were staying for three nights, we had time to really explore some of this amazing World Heritage area. The management at Patricia Lake Bungalows couldn’t have been more helpful and gave us great advice about walks, attractions, the best supermarket, eateries and how to operate the hot tub. Nothing was too much trouble! There was even a special bottle of wine to help us celebrate a special anniversary.

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A very nice drop! Thank you Patricia Lake Bungalows!

Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain

On our first afternoon, we decided to explore Pyramid Lake. Patricia and Pyramid Lakes are just a few kilometres from Jasper township and are connected to each other and the town by hiking trails. In fact, Jasper has so many hiking trails that you have to prioritize.  Even though we were staying next door, so to speak, we drove to Pyramid Lake to explore the lake via a hiking trail which took us along the shoreline, past the resort and across a small wooden footbridge to Pyramid Island. There we admired the wonderful views across the lake of Pyramid Mountain and its reflection.

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It’s easy to see why it’s called Pyramid Mountain!
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The lake was so clear and still, perfect for reflections.

Back home at Patricia Lake, we enjoyed similar views but the snow capped mountains added a special magic I think.

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Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake

We woke to a cloudy day and decided that it was perfect for exploring. About an hour’s drive from Jasper lies Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Although I had read that the upper Canyon could get very busy when tour buses arrive, I hadn’t appreciated what  ‘busy’ meant in this context.  We thought we were relatively early;  arriving at the canyon around 11am.  The carpark was reasonably empty and  we smugly set off  to explore the excellent self-guided interpretative loop trail that follows the upper reaches of the  gorge. We found ourselves crossing the canyon several times, the bridges providing wonderful photo opportunities.

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The water churns along
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carving out caves in the canyon walls
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cascading down waterfalls
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and disappearing into the forest!

By the time we reached the fourth bridge, an hour or so had passed and it was time to retrace our steps, for we wanted to check out Medicine and Maligne Lakes after lunch.  We were astounded by the number of people we encountered walking down, as we climbed to the top. The tour buses had arrived … in droves. Despite the crowds, which at times resembled a herd of wildebeest scrabbling for a spot at the waterhole,  this was a wonderful place to visit and explore. Next time, we would like to allow more time to explore the canyon further, as far as the fifth and sixth bridges perhaps.

Leaving Maligne Canyon, we drove past Medicine Lake to the beautiful Maligne Lake. Everything about this lake is wonderful.  It is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Ringed by snow-and-ice-capped mountains, the 22 km long lake stretches past serene Spirit Island right to the melt-water channels of Coronet Glacier.

We lunched at the Maligne Lake Day Lodge & View Restaurant which had an adequate menu and a fabulous view and then explored the foreshore of the lake, learning about some of the history of the area,  while some of the locals tried to say hello.

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I can see you!

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The path winds past the historic boat shed where there are canoes for hire,
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while the  changing colours  of the lake invite you to linger … and contemplate.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we returned to Jasper where we still had time to wander around, looking for that special souvenir to bring home and enjoy a leisurely dinner in front of the fire,  overlooking Patricia Lake. Bliss!

 

Spirit Island

Morning bought sunny weather, so  we returned to Maligne Lake and took the Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island.  This boat cruise was definitely one of the highlights of our Canadian holiday. Excellent commentary and amazing scenery made for an unforgettable experience.

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The boats are not so big that they intrude on the landscape or impact the environment in a negative way

On the water, we were amazed by the changing colours of the water.

 

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Is it blue,  blue green, aqua, turquoise, jade ……?

But nothing prepared us for what awaited at Spirit Island.

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 Here it is impossible to take a bad photograph for it is so beautiful where ever you look! 
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An amazing place!
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Even google liked one of my photos and decided to ‘play’.

Alas, our cruise was over all too soon and we headed back to Jasper. Reluctant to let go of the magic, we decided to have a late lunch at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. There on the deck, overlooking the pool and Beauvert Lake, enjoying a delightful meal and exceptional service, we certainly felt we were living the good life.

All too soon, our time in Jasper was at an end. There was one disappointment. We travelled to Jasper in early June and the road to Mount Edith Cavell was not yet open. Locals had rated this hike as good as the boat cruise if that’s possible, so this too, will also have to wait till … next time.

 

 

The Flinders Ranges in Springtime

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The Chace Range in the Flinders Ranges,  as viewed from Rawnsley Park

Our recent road trip to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia could best be described as serendipitous. Quite by accident,  we found ourselves in the right place at the right time to witness one of nature’s miracles, a once in ten years sort of miracle!

Following extensive and unusual winter and spring rainfall, the dry, red countryside that we expected to find was carpeted with an explosion of wildflowers and greenery. And this carpet was not just here and there, but stretched for hundreds of kilometres, from Nyngan

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Drifts of wildflowers near the Bogan River in Nyngan

to Broken Hill

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blue puff balls as far as the eye could see

and from the South Australian border

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As we drove to each new town in South Australia, there were drifts of gazanias in every colour imaginable!

all the way to the  green oasis of Wilpena Pound in the  Flinders Ranges.

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Open grassland in the middle of Wilpena Pound.

We enjoyed the journey to the Flinders via NSW. Although much of the region was affected by floods with many roads and highways closed, with the exception of a little bit of water over the road on the outskirts of Warren, the Prado didn’t get its feet wet, let alone test out the snorkle. Each town had something to remember it by. In Nyngan we spotted this heritage building.

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Nyngan has been a boom and bust sort of place.

And in Cobar where copper  is mined, a lookout on the edge of town lets you look down into the big pit while the museum and visitor centre is worth a visit. The museum offers insights into the indigenous, mining and pastoral history of the region and the everyday life of the early settlers. In those days, a woman’s work was never done.

 

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I’d need a good hand cream after this and my back hurts just looking at this equipment!

Broken Hill did not disappoint either. We enjoyed exploring the city streets where there were lots of interesting things to see such as ‘The Big Picture’ and the heritage listed town of Silverton where the Mad Max films were made. The sculpture park on Sunset Hill was striking and the sunset beautiful. As well, we found a delightful cafe which had excellent coffee and a fresh menu, always a bonus when you’re travelling.

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Sun nearly gone!

But the star attraction of our trip were the Flinders Ranges. We stayed at Rawnsley  Park Station  www.rawnsleypark.com.au  which has a variety of accommodation options to suit most budgets. We chose to stay in one of their self-contained holiday units which we found very comfortable.

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We stocked up on supplies in Broken Hill and Hawker. After breakfast, we packed lunch to take with us on our explorations , returning for a leisurely dinner each evening. 

There are some delightful walks at Rawnsley Park Station. One that  we completed was the Ferntree Falls Walk. We were fortunate again because the falls don’t always flow, only after rain! And it had rained a couple of days before we arrived!

 

.The following morning we set off to explore. First stop was Wilpena Pound.

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Wilpena Pound from the air! An experience not to be missed.

There is an excellent information centre at the Pound and soon we found ourselves walking along a silver gum lined creek

walk-in-wilpena-pound
These gum trees looked as if someone had spray painted them silver. And they were so tall!

 across bridges

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The creek twists and turns

to the Hills Homestead, the early settlers of the Pound

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A lonely life

on our way to the Wangara lookout where the view across the pound made the climb to the lookout worthwhile.

view-from-the-lookout
It just goes on and on.

Returning to the visitor centre, we had our lunch on the shaded deck while we worked out our itinerary for an afternoon drive. We decided to explore the Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges.

Bunyeroo Gorge is one of the main gorges which runs through the Heysen Range towards Lake Torrens. The drive down the Razorback Ridge to Bunyeroo Valley gives spectacular views South towards the Pound Range.

razorback-ridge
Kenn has always wanted to drive this road. Finally got his wish and a couple of watery creek crossings as well.

We then drove north to join the Brachina Gorge road which meanders its way through sharp sawtooth ridges of resistant quartzite. This spectacular gorge was once used as a pass through which bullock teams pulled their loads and is now a favourite picnic and camping area.

looking-down-the-range
It was awesome to see where we had driven from the air

Early next morning, we decided to do one of the longer walks at Wilpena Pound: the 18.8 km Bridle Gap Walk which takes you across the pound and back.

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The walk captured in bronze

This walk forms part of the Heysen Trail, one of Australia’s Great Walks but it was the wildlife that we saw which made this walk very special. We spotted wallabies and some very friendly emus. For a moment or two, I thought they were going to be too friendly!

emus
The emus were on the lookout for something to chase: a wallaby jumped along and obliged

I also had fun testing out how waterproof my hiking boots were as we crossed little cteeks and lagoons on the walk. Needless to say, my feet in my Scarpa boots stayed dry. These boots are made for walking!

That afternoon, we explored other gems including the Cazneaux  Tree. Cazneaux was a famous photographer. One of his  most famous images was taken on 1937, of a solitary river red gum tree, near Wilpena Pound which he titled “The Spirit of Endurance”. Like many others, I took a photo of the same tree which still stands today.

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Hopefully, it will still be standing in 100 years time.

There were Aboriginal rock sites to visit and admire,

aboriginal-art
just beautiful

lookouts to visit which had vistas over the ABC range and towards the north and  a thrilling flight over the area to enjoy. We considered booking this before we left home, but weren’t sure which flight would suit us best. The friendly staff at Rawnsley and Wilpena Pound were very helpful and in the end we decided on a half hour flight from Rawnsley over the Pound and the Gorges.  It was not difficult to book a time which suited us and our pilot made the experience one to savour. Thank you, Alex!

All too soon, we were bidding farewell to the Flinders Ranges. We returned to Byron Bay via Mildura where we stopped for two nights. This is a lovely place on the Murray River in the middle of wine growing country. Couldn’t resist trying the local drop and bought a couple of bottles home to share with friends. While in Mildura, we went to Sea Lake.

sea-lake-reflections
As you can see, not much to see at Sea Lake except your reflection! We watched amazed as hordes of Chinese girls, dressed in designer clothing walked into the lake and posed while their boyfriends took their photograph in the murky salt lake.  Apparently, when there are some clouds, it looks as if you are walking on the clouds!

A couple of family reunions, an extra 6000 kms on the clock and all too soon we were driving into Byron Bay. Home until … the next adventure.