Around Australia: Walpole to Esperance


The first thing we did after leaving Walpole was to drive the few miles east to the Valley of Giants Treetop Walk in Nornalup National Park. The huge Red Tingle Trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii) grow up to 75m tall and 20m in girth. The karri trees seen elsewhere in WA (Eucalyptus diversicolor) can grow up to 90m. These tall trees have been used as lookout posts for forest fires.


The walkway gets up to 40m off the ground and gives great views of the canopy. We saw several birds (including this Australian Ringneck)

but no quokkas which also live on the trees and use the sword grass on the ground to give them cover from predators. When people walk fast on the walkway, it tends to sway a little making photography a bit of a challenge. I was thankful for the image stabilisers on my lenses. There is also a brief glimpse to the landscape outside the park.

We also walked along the ground level Ancient Empire boardwalk. This is free, but you have to pay to go on the Treetop walk. A section of the Bibbelmum Track passes through the valley. It is 1000km and runs from near Perth to Albany. We saw one hiker near the Visitors’ Centre. All too soon it was time to carry on as our destination for the night was Esperance, 374 miles from Walpole. Vineyards are called wineries here but near Denmark, the next town on the South Coast Highway; I saw signs to a meadery and a cidery. Albany was settled before Perth and is the oldest (dating from 1826) and the largest town on this section of the coast. Initially, the British settlers were welcomed by the indigenous people there because they stopped the rape and murder being carried out by whalers and sealers. Unfortunately the Brits then stopped indigenous people coming into their shops and began to remove their children from them. Coming into town, we passed the world’s largest sandalwood oil factory. It has some 19th century buildings in the town centre and I had no problem finding a café to top up my caffeine levels. Down by the shore is a replica ship of the Amity Brig that brought the first settlers here from Sydney.

We had by now left the big trees behind us and the landscape switched between farmland and bush. There were a few more forests but they were for commercial timber. We did not have a kangaroo cross the road in front of us today, but we did have to swerve around one lizard and had the first emu crossing of the trip. As we drove east the landscape got drier and the rivers had less water in them. Near Ravensthorpe we were in big cereal growing area with fields bigger than those in East Anglia. The town has artworks on the silos and a very large roundabout for a small community. It was established in 1900 and reminded me of something a university friend said to some Americans who were studying in the UK: ‘I suppose you have to come here as you don’t have any history over there’. He obviously has not been to Australia where European history is even more recent and indigenous history often not easily accessible by others. Our road began to traverse some hills and we were now back in mining and road train country. As we descended into Esperance there was more water around with lakes, ponds and nature reserves. All we had time for before dark was a short walk along the esplanade where the old pier was in the background near our motel was the sculpture by Cindy Poole and Jason Woolridge: Whale Tail. Our mileage was 381 making the trip total 8,128.

Around Australia: The Glass House Mountains


The Glass House Mountains acquired their current name because on 17th May 1770 Captain Cook (who was a Lieutenant at the time) noticed three hills and thought they resembled glass-making kilns in Yorkshire. Of course, they have been highly significant ancestral homes of the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people for much longer. They request that the mountains are not climbed as they are sacred, but they remain popular with rock climbers and have been since the early 20th century. We arrived in the afternoon of our first night here and settled into our accommodation at the Ecolodge which sits under Mount Tibrogargan. We stayed in the restored 120 year old church building which was previously at Wivenhoe and re-located here when it closed in 1990. The owner bought a World War One settler block in 1982 and after acquiring the church began to plan the Eco-Lodge and opened in 2004. Breakfast is served in some renovated rail carriages with the birdsong all around.

There is so much to see and do here but with limited time we had to be selective. Fortunately, it remained dry, so we made our way to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is situated on Mountain View Road. The reserve is a remnant of rainforest which has survived the surrounding farming and there are circular trails around it.

The visitors’ centre has a display of birds and their calls. We heard many, had fleeting glimpses of some including a Roufous Fantail, Brush Turkey and others, all too fast to photograph. We also spotted some wallabies.

Back at the centre we had a coffee closely observed by a magpie and a Brush Turkey.


There is a lookout with views over the mountains

and an exhibition area which on this occasion had a selection of works by local artists based on the nightlife of the reserve. I had to look up what a reduction linocut was as I plan to do some more at some point. It is where all the colours are added using the same block. After coffee we drove down Old Glympian Road to the Glass House Mountains Lookout which has views from the opposite direction.

Then it was back to Mount Tibrogargan to walk one of the trails around the mountain.

There is also a summit path from here which is for experienced climbers only, but we saw a young couple head up it without any equipment at all. There are views of Mount Beerwah and Mount Coonowrin from the trail.

and of Tibrogargan itself.

When we got back to the car park and sat having our lunch at a picnic table we had a kookaburra try to steal some of it and other birds hovering hopefully. One managed to find a small sip of water on the table.



Our mileage today was only 74 making the total to date 989.

Walking in Madeira: Levada do Furado


The original plan for our last day before returning to Funchal was the mountain walk from Pico do Arieiro to the highest peak, Pico Ruivo (1862m). However, the weather was not looking good. It was decided not to make the final decision until we arrived at Pico Do Arieiro, where the cameras could be checked and locals consulted. En route we stopped off at the viewpoint at top of Europe’s highest cliff, Cabo Girao. It is 580m high (the highest cliff in the world is in Hawaii). Unfortunately we could see very little due to the cloud but in good weather, the glass skywalk would give fantastic views below.


After the drive up, past an old ice house, it was clear that the high winds, rain and minimal visibility meant that the mountain walk had to be cancelled. Instead we walked one of the oldest levadas which belongs to the state: the Levada do Furado. It was acquired through a contract signed in 1822 between the first Count of Carvalhal and the Board of the Royal Treasury, for irrigation of the farmlands of Porto da Cruz. Back in a well-preserved section of the island’s native forest, there were flowers like this violet:

and more waterfalls.

In places the path sneaks through narrow passages between the rocks.

However, we soon began to get views over the surrounding area.At Lamaceiros the Levada do Furado ends, near this building dated 1906

A forestry track took us down to the road in Portela.


There was a very conveniently situated bar which made a good resting place and a flower market taking place nearby.

Although we were disappointed not to be able to do the mountain walk we had a pleasant day at lower altitudes.

Walking in Madeira: Queimadas to Verdeda Ilha & drive to Porto Moniz


We left early for the short drive to Queimadas where the Levada do Caldierão Verde which runs for 6km through a UNESCO protected laurel forest: the Laurisilva. This is one of the few remnants of native forest and is made up of the laurel, or bay tree (Laurus novocanariensis), the lily-of-the-valley tree (Clethra arborea), the Madeira laurel (Ocotea foetens), Madeira mahogany (Persea indica) and a number of flowers. There are also some non-natives and this one has been named the candelabra tree.

Levadas are channels built by hand to carry water from the north of the island to the drier south. Slaves from Africa and La Gomera in the Canaries were used as labourers in the early days. Building the levadas continued until the 1940s.

The one we followed runs to the the highest waterfall in Madeira which falls 100m at around 900m altitude. It rained, although we had dry skies for lunch at the foot of the fall.

The trail passes through three tunnels, some of which have low ceilings and torches are required As we emerged from one, a pregnant cat was there to welcome us. Our guide told us that sometimes the locals would go away on holiday and just leave their cats to roam on the mountainside.

This walk only involved around 100m of ascent and then a slippery descent to Verdeda da Ilha. The path (mostly steps) was built alongside streams which were used to send felled timber down to the village. The vegatation included gorse, sweet chestnut trees, eucalyptus and mimosa. We had very brief glimpses of a fire crest and a Madeiran chaffinch and also heard a blackbird.
After tea and cake at a local cafe, we were driven along the north coast to Porto Moniz, stopping at a viewpoint at Beira da Quinta along the way.


It took 16 years to build the new road and it gives views of the old, winding north coast road. Porto Moniz has natural lagoons for swimming in but this was not possible on our visit given the high winds and waves.

The rock in harbour is Ilhéu Mole. All along the promenade waves were crashing on the rocks. In places there was some yellow/orange foam suggestive of pollution.


New Zealand: walking in the forest and on the beach

Driving north of Geraldine towards Peel Forest we passed through farmland where large numbers of red deer were grazing. When we arrived at the forest car park there was only one other vehicle there. We set off to walk the trail to Acland Falls. There are various trails of differing lengths and difficulty. Ours had a steep climb uphill and then down towards the falls.

Peel Forest has a large collection of native conifers, some of which are over 100 years old. There are numerous other trees, plants and ferns and the forest is home to several species of native birds as well as a few of the introduced ones. Amidst all the unfamiliar birdsong I heard the alarm call of a European blackbird. We did see a New Zealand fantail who came quite close as they are known to do but darted away before I could get a photograph. New Zealand Birds Online is a very useful resource for identification: http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/

Peel Forest has a small community living there and a wooden church dating from 1869 which is described as ‘historic’. Churches built in the 1860s and 70s do not make it into my copy of ‘Old Cheshire Churches’ at home. On the way back southwards we passed a holiday park just north of Geraldine called ‘Grumpy’s Retreat’ which raised a smile. Our destination was a motel perched above Caroline Bay in Timaru. The beach here is among the ten most loved in New Zealand.

Dolphins, seals, sea lions and penguins are known to visit the beach. In the middle of the day, only some seals could be seen offshore and dogs being walked kept scaring the birds. Several gulls were bathing and drinking in the stream that runs through the beach and there were a few oystercatchers.These are the most common South Island Pied Oystercatchers. The other day we saw some of the Variable Oystercatcher which is often black and which is declining.

There is a coastal trail and we walked some of it via the dune boardwalks and over to the Timaru Lighthouse which from 1878-1970 was the main harbour light.
It is a public holiday long weekend here so the motel is fully booked but we have a great view of the bay. In the late afternoon we walked back down to the beach. The bridge across the road is called the ‘Matrimonial Bridge’ and is yet another festooned with padlocks. There were still quite a few people, dogs and only one drone down on the beach as the sun went down at 17.03.

Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

While packing the car this morning I noticed this street art across the road from the car park.
Street Art 27 June 2016-1

After wending our way around the one-way system we were finally on Lancaster Avenue, the road out of town towards R30 which is the 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway through mainstreet America. We passed through some of the more down at heel parts of the city but once we crossed the county line into leafy Montgomery County there were plenty of mansions, Whole Foods Markets, Audi garages and adverts for yoga classes. R30 runs alongside the railway for much of the route and one train passed us.
Amtrak 27 June 2016-1
In Exton, we saw the first cornfield of the trip (many more to come) and were soon in Lancaster County where Dutch barns and Amish farmers are a-plenty. Today’s best roadside sign was one for a balanced diet: a doughnut in each hand. Our coffee stop was at the Route 30 diner.
In Columbia we stopped just before crossing the Susquehanna River and seeing I was taking photographs, a local guy came over for a chat. He thought we were Australian, said that he was a Vietnam veteran and advised me about other good photography spots. The French usually think we are Dutch; the Spanish assume we are German so Australian is a new one! The concrete bridge we crossed was built in the 1930s by veterans and was a great alternative to the four-lane R30 one upstream.
Bridge over Susquehann River 27 June 2016-1
In York we saw adverts for a gun fair that had taken place yesterday. Our lunch stop was Gettysburg which is full of history. I was slightly surprised to see a collection of musical instruments alongside shells, guns and other weapons. On the way down to the visitors’ centre I was enjoying the natural history: listening to the insects and birds in the surrounding woodland and enjoying the wild flowers.
Wildflower 2 Gettysberg 27 June 2016-1
Further exploration of the battlefields was curtailed by a heavy downpour. At this point James remembered that he had left his waterproof and a jacket in the airport hotel in New York and is currently trying to arrange for it to be sent to us in Denver. Between Gettysburg and Fayetteville, we crossed the Appalachian Trail (I started thinking about long walks) and the rain stopped. After Chambersburg, we could see hills on the horizon and were obviously in a big fruit-growing area. The road then continued up the wooded hills and we achieved another first for the trip: the first summit: Tuscarora at 2123ft in the Appalachians. All the communities we drove through had derelict houses, defunct businesses and rusting vehicles lying in the yard. The forested hills reminded me of Perthshire in Scotland where I grew up and we crossed another three summits before we reached Pittsburgh: Sideling Hill (2195ft), Bald Knob (2906ft) in the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Hill (2684ft). We passed the Flight 93 Memorial and at Stoyston Auto Wreckers saw huge fields – acres of scrapped cars. The other first today was signs of the American election, absent yesterday but appearing today in the form of several Trump posters, the first in Jennerstown. Eventually we descended into Pittsburgh.
Tunnel into Pittsburg 27 June 2016-1

A walk in the woods

With the temperature in double figures, sun in the sky and no wind for the first time this week it was definitely a day for a walk. As a change from the beach we did an almost eight mile circuit on tracks and paths in Borgie Forest. There was only one worker there and for most of the way it was just us, bird song and the smell of the conifers. We could hear two cuckoos and numerous other birds. Several wild flowers were on or close to the path.

Borgie Forest Flower 4 June 2015 (1 of 1)

Further south where some trees had been cut, there were good views across to the surrounding hills.

Borgie Forest View 3 4 June 2015 (1 of 1)

Borgie Forest View 4 4 June 2015 (1 of 1)

Back at the car park we had our picnic by the totem pole (we had not seen one of these since we visited the Totem Pole Park in Oklahoma). Inevitably no wind and being stationary brought out the midges and I got bitten despite slapping on the Deet before we set out. As we drove back the wind reappeared with increasing cloud cover so tomorrow will probably be spent getting organised for the next leg of the trip, to Orkney. Hopefully the forecast rain will allow even a short walk along the Skerray beach.

Borgie Forest totem pole 4 June 2015 (1 of 1)