December 29, 2019

Ketchikan Alaska: Rain, totem poles and plenty of interest

Phensri and Len arrive in Ketchikan to be greeted with low cloud, rain and a bleak outlook. Although it was June, it looked more like February. But we should not have been surprised. The city has been nicknamed the "Rain Capital of Alaska" as it receives nearly four metres of rain each year over 230 wet days.

Ketchikan is the “first city,” along the popular Inside Passage and serves as the first port of call for many cruise ships visiting Alaska. It is on Revillagigedo Island at the southern tip of the tail that wags the rest of the giant state. You can only reach Ketchikan by air or sea.

Once known as the Salmon Capital of the world, then later as a major timber centre, Ketchikan is now a tourist town. With a population of around 13,000, at times during summer this doubles as up to six cruise boats arrive with thousands of passengers and crew.

The demise of the timber industry has led to a radical transformation of the town. Many people who used to earn their livelihoods through timber now have jobs in tourism. For many decades, the huge forests of spruce, hemlock and cedar trees were the source of timber for the logging industry. Logging camps dotted the islands of southeast Alaska, and pulp mills were robust economic drivers of the region.

Then one by one, those pulp mills shut down. Ketchikan's was the last one still operating in Alaska when it shut down in 1997. Hundreds of good-paying jobs and the businesses that supported them went with it. The shoe shops, workwear stores, and Chevrolet and Ford dealerships went too.

In their place are many jewelry and watch stores, souvenir and gift shops, as well as local tour operations. The newer businesses provide seasonal retail work, but it's nowhere near as well paid as the old year-round jobs: Now at the end of September, most of the businesses close and many people leave town.

During the five-month cruise season, this is not apparent to most visitors. When the gangplank is lowered and the tourists march ashore, they find a gaggle of tour operators waiting to entice them with local offerings: The world's largest totem poles; an all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast; a chance to see killer whales and humpbacks; and the chance to enjoy a brothel tour.

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on the waterfront is where we found a map with a self-guided walking tour. Despite the rain, we set out to explore.


Many streets in town are boardwalks or steep wooden staircases so walking is never boring. St John’s Episcopal Church built in 1902, Whale Park and two impressive replica totem poles are initial highlights. We then visit the Tongass Historical Museum to see artefacts from periods going back to a Native Fishing Camp.

Ketchikan Creek flows through the centre of town year-round, its cold water populated in summer by salmon who come up the creek to spawn. Numbers are multiplied by the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery which raises and releases 300,000 salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout each year.

Totem Heritage Centre

Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Giant carved cedar poles stand in numbers in the Saxman Native Village and the Totem Bright State Historical Park but I recommend a visit to the Totem Heritage Centre which displays very old and rare poles from three Native Nations.

Many were carved 150-175 years ago and they tell the stories of families. When a totem pole was raised during a big celebration, everyone would be told why the pole was carved and what it meant.

Creek Street

Until 1953, this was lined with up to 30 bordellos. During the Prohibition era, some houses became speakeasies. Now shops, museums, galleries and a restaurant welcome visitors to the unique piled street which is now on the US National Register of Historic Places.

A highlight is Dolly’s House which belonged to Dolly Arthur, Ketchikan’s most famous madam. Her house, preserved much as she left it, has antiques, garish décor and an aura that many want to experience. Tours of the small building are offered.

Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre

Here you can explore the natural and cultural history of the Tongass National Forest, by far the largest national forest in the U.S. You can visit a re-created native fishing village and learn how the lush forest sustains southeast Alaska communities today.

For those wanting a walk through the forest, the four-kilometre Rainbow Trail only 15 minutes from town provides a wilderness experience while also having some nice views of Ketchikan

If you want a theatrical taste of the industry that used to fuel Ketchikan, you can go to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, where burly competitors in flannel shirts and braces chop stumps, saw logs, and heave axes at a bullseye. It’s great fun.

Getting there

Ketchikan is just 90 minutes by air from Seattle, with several daily flights in and out provided by Alaska Airlines. A scheduled daily jet service is also available to and from Anchorage and there are regular services to several other Alaskan towns. Ferries connect Ketchikan with the lower 48 states, and Canada. Many cruise lines operate Alaska cruises from Vancouver and Seattle to Ketchikan || Experience Guides YouTube Channel

Words: Len Rutledge   Images: Phensri Rutledge
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December 28, 2019

Discover the beauty of traditional Takayama in Japan

Takayama's old town is beautifully preserved.
Tucked away in the mountainous Hida region of Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, Takayama retains a traditional charm, unlike few other Japanese cities. Surrounded by mountains in every direction, and nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’, it makes an ideal side trip between Tokyo and Kyoto.

December 27, 2019

Terowie, SA: "I Shall Return"

Near ghost town where, in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur made his famous "I shall return" speech

Words: Bruce Elder / AussieTowns  - Images: Roderick Eime

There was a time when the population of Terowie was over 2,000. Today, with a population of around 200, it is a tiny township on the edge of becoming a ghost town. The reason: Terowie came into existence as part of the railway network which was built in South Australia in the late 19th century. With three different railway gauges meeting at the town it was vital to an economy driven by rail.

Then, in the 1970s, the rail was reduced to a single line and there was no need for Terowie. The town collapsed and was designated an historic town because of its large number of well preserved 19th century buildings. Today there are old stores and shops reminding visitors that, back in the 1880s, it was a vibrant and important railway town.

In 1966 the last regular passenger rail service left Terowie.

On the railway station platform at Terowie, on the 20 March, 1942, one of the most famous speeches/statements of World War II was made.

It was here, for the first time, that General Douglas MacArthur declared “I Shall Return”. He would go on to say it over and over again until, eventually, he did return to the Philippines to drive the Japanese out of that country and to help win the war in the Pacific.

The context was strange. MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific, had escaped from Corregidor in the Philippines by PT boat, reached Mindanao, had flown to Batchelor Airfield south of Darwin, flew to Alice Springs and that was where he had caught a train.
The general, Mrs MacArthur and son

He was travelling south to Adelaide, and then on to Melbourne, with his wife and support staff on a personal train (such are the luxuries of a Supreme Commander) which comprised a steam engine, bogie van, dining car, two sleeping cars plus brake van. 

While changing trains in Terowie, MacArthur stood on the railway platform – I love the description from one of the newspapers at the time – “The tough tall guy, with a whisky bottle at his belt, a tame flying fortress, and a legendary habit of shooting his way through red tape” made his speech regarding the Battle of the Philippines in which he said: "I came out of Bataan and I shall return". 

It was the first time he said it and it became a legendary observation about the war in the Pacific. 

It was as memorable for people in Australia and the United States as any of Churchill’s speeches about Europe. A blunt “we shall never surrender”. 

It is also worth remembering that this statement of resolve and determination was said at a time when the Japanese were making impressive headway in the movement to the south. They had forced MacArthur to flee from the Philippines and the plane he was flying in could not land in Darwin because the town was being bombed by the Japanese. “I shall return” was determination against powerful evidence of imminent defeat.

The ever-reliable Monument Australia website (there is a monument to the event on the Terowie platform) records: “Douglas MacArthur arrived at Terowie Railway Station and much to MacArthur’s surprise his "secret" arrival in Terowie was not so secret. A huge cheer went up from the locals who had gathered when he left the train.

“General MacArthur responded by striding towards an opening between a line of railway carriages and saluted the people of Terowie on the other side of the carriages and some passengers on a nearby train. MacArthur was dressed in a loose hanging jacket and slacks and wore no decorations or insignia except for a laurel wreathed peak on his cap and another emblem.

“On being asked if he would reach the United States he said:- "The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed to Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organising an American offensive against Japan, the primary purpose of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came out of Bataan and I shall return". 

The sleeping carriage NRC36 where MacArthur was resting when he got to Terowie is now in the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation society collection at Quorn, just north of Terowie.

There are groups of shops, now disused, on the main street some of which have remained untouched since they were built in the 1880s. Of particular interest are those now used as the Terowie Tea Rooms.

December 22, 2019

Take your time to experience Disneyland

Disneyland Park has always been the number one U.S. day trip for Australians but there is so much to see and do at The Happiest Place on Earth in 2020 that you really need to spend several days at the resort.
Now, I have to tell you right from the start that Disneyland Park has always been at the very top of the list of places to visit for me: it holds a special place in my heart.
And it is even better than ever with lots to see and do if you arrange to spend a week or so in Anaheim.
There is traditional Disneyland Park with its attractions like the new Star Wars ….and its famous street parades.  Add to this Disney's California Adventure and Disney Downtown and you have several days of fun filled action to the time of your life.
I recently spent 12 days in Anaheim staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance and the Hyatt Regency Orange County and I arranged to get the Disney Park Hopper Pass that allowed me to swap between Disneyland and California Adventure at will.
Both parks are just a few paces apart, facing each other, but they offer completely different experiences. Disneyland was part of growing up for Australia babyboomers. We watched in awe as Walt himself showed off his park on the Sunday night Disneyland TV show and occasionally on the Mickey Mouse Club show.

Generations of Aussies have cruised on the Mark Twain, rode the Disneyland railroad, laughed on the Jungle Ride, met Mickey and Donald Duck, visited the Pirates of the Caribbean and revelled in my personal favorite, It's a Small Small World.
Now those same babyboomers are taking their families and their grandkids to see the place of their childhood dreams. And Disneyland never disappoints.
It is still the jewel in the crown of all theme parks with a special magic that overwhelms you as you wander down Main Street dodging horse drawn trams and ancient fire engines, bound for Cinderella's castle that dominates the horizon.
In 2020, it is the massive Star Wars land that is drawing the crowds. At the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction you can launch into the Star Wars universe. Rides include the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and he forthcoming Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
The park opens at 8am most days and I made sure I was there early before the crowds began to flock in. This allowed me to walk straight on to several favourite rides without lining up. As the park became busier I went to Disney Downtown for lunch and then nipped into California Adventure Park for the afternoon.
I wasn't sure what to expect after Disneyland. What an amazing surprise it was. California Adventure is every bit good as Disneyland in its own right.

The Disney "Imagineers" have mentioned to take the many lessons learnt at Disneyland and applied them to the newer park.
For starters, the Main Street plan of Disneyland with its tram running down the street has been maintained and enhanced with a replica Los Angeles Electric "Red Car" meandering along.
While Disneyland is a recreation of Walt's home town of Marceline in the early 1900s, California Adventure is Hollywood when Disney set up his studio in the 1920s.
However it has unique attractions like the complete full scale "set" from the Cars animated movies and the awesome Grizzly Peak with the best Flume Ride I have ever been on.
My personal favourite is "Flying" a unique hang glider like ride around the world. You really do feel like you are in mid air over the plains of Africa and Sydney Harbor.
At the opposite end of the park is Guardians of the Galaxy's giant tower which dominates the horizon. Then there is Hollywood Land which is much better than the real Hollywood.
Finally, if you are going to Disneyland, don't rush. Pick a recommended hotel close to the resort and relax and enjoy the time of your life spread of a week or so.
Words and images: Dallas Sherringham.
Feature supplied by:
For details
Courtyard by Marriott:
1: The Big Wheel is one of the highlights of the amazing California Adventure Park
2: Inside the new Star Wars: Galaxy Quest attraction at Disneyland Park (supplied)
3: People of all ages from all around the world flock towards the famous Disneyland Castle
4: Dallas Sherringham and wife Sharon getting up courage to go on the Splash Mountain ride
5: Sharon went on the Splash Mountain Ride alone after Dallas chickened out...yet again!
6: The legendary Mark Twain paddle steamer is one of the few original rides at Disneyland.

December 11, 2019

History remade as cruise ship visits South Australia's Copper Coast

When CMV's Vasco da Gama made its maiden call to sleepy Wallaroo, the town and its history came alive. Roderick Eime is there for the big day.

Her lace bonnet almost brushed the low ceiling of the stiflingly small room as her hand swept above the kitchen table, set with the expectant clutter of bone-handled cutlery and blue willow porcelain.

December 10, 2019

The story of Vaucluse House and those who lived there

On a peaceful, green, upward slope from the sparkling blue of Sydney Harbour, about six miles from the heart of the modern City, lie the grounds and the old colonial mansion known as Vaucluse House. It is one of the cherished historical possessions of Australia, preserved to-day as a relic of former times, as a memorial to William Charles Wentworth whose home it was, and as a fascinating museum of domestic furniture and furnishings in the early-to-mid Nineteenth Century.

Vaucluse House itself remains much as it was when Wentworth left it, over a hundred years ago. Among tall trees stand the yellow-grey walls with their battlemented tops and turrets, telling of the Early Victorian Age's love of pretentious pseudo-gothic architecture. The lower floor of the house is half surrounded by a wide, shady patio roofed and screened by wistaria. In front are green lawns and bright masses of flowers. On one side the ground falls away into a shallow gully, cool and dim under great, gnarled, wide-spreading trees. Within the house, rooms and hallways retain the ponderous furniture and the furnishings and the knicknacks which, a hundred years ago, were the outward and visible evidences of solid bourgeois prosperity.

It was an Age, in Wentworth's class, of heavy male self-importance, of obedient and respectful wives and children, of deferential servants. And this is the atmosphere which a modern visitor to Vaucluse House should, in imagination, try to re-create. Only thus will such a visitor find himself, even more herself, able to understand the strange - to us - combination of luxury and discomfort, of snug corners and draughty corridors, of imposing dining rooms and bare bleak kitchen, of marble stairs in narrow and twisting stairways, of floor-tiles said to have been obtained from the ruins of Pompeii - costly and impressive to talk about to a guest, but, oh, how cold in winter to the feet!

These are a few of the things which make Vaucluse House so interesting.

The house and grounds themselves are indeed both delightful and interesting. But our interest in them is enhanced by some knowledge of the men who lived here.

Here are the stories of two men - that extraordinary character, the “gentleman convict", Sir Henry Browne Hayes; and then that other most controversial figure, hated by some, venerated by others, William Charles Wentworth.

The Almost Incredible "Gentleman Convict" Sir Henry Browne Hayes

Miniature portrait of Sir Henry minus his mustache,
is believed to have been painted by Adam Buck 1759-1833
Apparently, the first person to erect a substantial dwelling on the site of Vaucluse House was a convict transported to these shores-Sir Henry Browne Hayes, from Cork, Ireland. Whether that original building was later incorporated in the house we have to-day, or whether it was entirely demolished and replaced, we do not know. But certainly Sir Henry did acquire the land and build a residence upon it in the year 1803; and such evidence as we possess rather tends to suggest that the old Hayes home was incorporated in the new one, the one which we see now, built for William Charles Wentworth in 1829.

But who was this “first inhabitant”, this knighted gentleman of Cork, who found himself transported as a convict to the penal settlement of Botany Bay? And what manner of man was he?

In 1797, Sir Henry Browne Hayes, the son of a wealthy merchant, had already occupied the honourable office of Sheriff of the City of Cork. He could swagger about the town, too, in the uniform of a Captain of the Militia. Also he had received the highly prized honour of a knighthood, presumably in recognition of his loyal services to the King of England-at a time when the majority of his compatriots, or as they claimed "all true Irishmen”, were seething with the spirit of revolt against hated English rule.

Hayes was then a young widower, about thirty-five years of age, with several children. His appearance was given: about 5' 7" tall, straight, fresh-coloured, a little pock-marked, with brown hair and “remarkable whiskers". Later he was described as having been haughty in manner, conspicuously over-dressed, and very proud of his captaincy in the local Militia.

Now, this Sir Henry Browne Hayes determined to augment his fortune. He had heard of a young lady, a Miss Mary Pike, an heiress, staying with a relative in the district. To her, one night, Sir Henry sent a forged letter purporting to come from the doctor attending Miss Pike's mother, stating that his patient had been taken very ill and that Miss Pike should come to her at once.

It was then past midnight and everyone was in bed; but Miss Pike hurriedly dressed, and the coachman was summoned to harness the horses and bring the carriage to the door for her. Then she set out But suddenly-as they were bowling along the dark streets-a small bunch of men, one of them armed with a pistol, stopped the carriage and surrounded it. In a trice, its terrified inmate was forcibly snatched away and placed in another carriage waiting near; and captors and prisoner were driven off. When they pulled up, they had arrived at the Hayes home at Mount Vernon.

Here, Sir Henry himself was waiting with a priest (genuine or bogus) and the necessary witnesses, to force Miss Pike to go through a marriage ceremony. But the lady objected most vehemently, probably hysterically; at one crucial moment she "screeched and flung the ring from her”; and only when Sir Henry produced a pistol, threatening to shoot himself, was the lady frightened finally into submission.

Even then, when the ceremony had been completed, it was impossible to convince Miss Pike that it was genuine, that she was indeed a wife. At length Haves himself seems to have realised that his schen had miscarried, and that if he could not persuade the lady to accept the fait accompli, he had not only missed acquiring her fortune but also had endangered his own life. The abduction of an heiress was then a capital crime. Eventually, apparently in panic, he locked her up in a small room and rushed out of the house into the night.

A few hours later, Miss Pike's family arrived on the scene to release her. A reward of £1,000 was offered for the arrest of Hayes. But he had gone into hiding.

Two years passed by. At the end of that time, Hayes evidently considered that the affair had at last blown over-especially as rumours had been put around to the effect that the abduction was really only a "romantic episode”, and the lady herself, until it came to the point, had been by no means unwilling. Then, two years after the abduction, Hayes an old acquaintance to "betray” him and reward.

The resultant trial was one of the sensations of the year. To Sir Henry's obvious surprise-he had thought he had more influence!-the jury found the prisoner guilty but recommended mercy.

So-in due course-Sir Henry Browne Hayes, Knight, lately of Cork, found himself on the convict ship Atlas under sentence of transportation, for life, to a new and remote penal settlement away on the other side of the world. But

In order to secure myself respectful treatment and decent accommodation (he wrote), I had paid a considerable sum to Captain Brookes, commander of the ship.

And one of the free passengers in the ship, Surgeon Jamison, later complained that the favoured convict had actually been allowed to dine at the captain's table, provided with accommodation in part of the round-house, and permitted to stow a great deal of his baggage in the already crowded cabin allotted to passengers. By contrast, Surgeon Jamison himself had been put into a tiny sleeping-place in which bags of sugar were stored.

convicts in early Sydney

Arriving at Sydney, however, Hayes found himself plunged into trouble from which neither wealth nor influence could save him. There is no doubt that the man was insufferably arrogant and a born troublemaker. But early Sydney was no place for haughtiness, and any trouble-maker (unless in the privileged military caste) could very soon find himself in very serious trouble indeed.

When he demanded permission to form a Masonic Lodge, of which he would be President, the Governor (Captain King) informed him curtly:

If H. B. Hayes is not sensible of the indulgence already allowed him, instead of being president of a Freemason's Lodge at Sydney, he will be put under a “president” (of another kind) at hard labour.

Nevertheless, the noble Knight seems to have avoided the threatened punishment for awhile; and he continued, as one writer afterwards put it, “to behave as though he were again a perfectly free agent and the dictionary contained no such word as Convict." In August, 1803, he purchased for £100, at an auction sale, about 105 acres of farmland on which he erected a cottage, naming the whole property Vaucluse.

Of some interest to-day is a note, still in existence, showing a list of seeds supplied to Sir Henry for his garden. Among them were: one gallon of oak tree seeds, one gallon of beech-tree seeds, and one quart of laburnum seeds. So to-day we can look at some of the fine old oaks and beeches on the estate, and regard them as probably having been planted as seed by Sir Henry Browne Hayes - the Convict-Knight - in 1803.

In December, 1804, Sir Henry leased Vaucluse to a Samuel Breakwell for seven years at a rental of £27 a year. But our "hero” was soon in trouble again and re-transported to the even more grim settlement at Norfolk Island, the Governor (Captain King) believing him to have been involved in stirring up unrest among the Irish convicts. His tenant, Breakwell, though not a convict, also found himself under arrest-for abducting a convict-girl-though he seems to have talked his way out of it.

However, Hayes was eventually permitted to return to Sydney; and when the Mutiny occurred the Mutiny of the Rum Corps Officers instigated by John Macarthur - he evidently sided with the Governor, Captain Bligh. At any rate, in 1809, Captain Bligh recommended a pardon for Hayes; and later he renewed the recommendation in London. In the meantime, Hayes was probably living with his tenant, Breakwell, on the estate at Vaucluse.

It was during this period that Hayes adopted a measure which may have been unique, for “defending" the house against snakes. For snakes infested the district. They had even entered the house, and (to his horror) at least one had been found actually in his bed. But how could he get rid of them?

Well, according to an old legend, once upon a time St. Patrick had banished all snakes from Ireland. So it was said that the smell of the peat from Irish bogs would drive away snakes anywhere. Hayes therefore imported from Ireland 500 barrels of peat, with which he filled a trench dug all around the house. No snake then, he believed, would ever cross that barrier of the sacred soil of Ould Oirland! And, for double assurance, the work was done on St. Patrick's Day-by a gang of convicts every one of them Irish.

That story is partly confirmed by a line of dark peat-like soil found under the present verandah in 1928, when it was being excavated in the course of restoration work. We cannot, however, produce reliable evidence as to whether or not the treatment was effective! Anyhow, no snakes have been reported in Vaucluse House recently!

During the reign of the Mutineers, after Captain Bligh's overthrow, Hayes was sentenced by them to hard labour at the Coal River (Newcastle), a very terrible punishment for having supported the Governor. But in 1812 the new Governor, Colonel Macquarie, granted him a full pardon, and so, at last, he was free again to return home to snakeless Ireland.

Yet even then-even then-his adventures and misadventures were not over. His ship, the Isabella, was wrecked on the Falkland Islands; and on that occasion Hayes behaved in such a disgraceful manner as to evoke the condemnation of some of his fellow passengers, including a fellow-Irishman, General Holt. Afterwards, Hayes could only make excuses for himself on the grounds of “self-preservation”. It was a humiliating finale to that tragi-comedy which had begun, fifteen years before, when the knightly ex-Sheriff of Cork had set out to win Miss Pike's fortune.

Twenty years later, at the age of 70, he died. He died in Ireland; and if we can believe his obituary notice:

... Sir Henry Browne Hayes, most sincerely and universally regretted ... a kind and indulgent parent, and a truly adherent friend ... endeared to every person who had the honour of his acquaintance ... buried in the family vault in the crypt of Christ Church, Cork.


November 11, 2019

Western Australia's Silo Art Trail

Michael Osborne explores the Public Silo Trail in WA

Australian’s are amazing when it comes to creativity, in particular when times are tough in the bush. One only has to see some of the great inventions our forebears created to help them survive our climate.

As we are aware, our country is enduring one of the worst drought and dry spell for many a year. The people on the land are suffering and are looking at tourism dollars to earn some money to see them over until the next wet.

So along comes FORM.

FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation that develops and advocates for excellence in creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia.

They come up with a concept - The Public Silo Trail – which is a partnership between FORM and Co-operative Bulk Handling Group (CBH Group).

One can imagine the conversation, ‘Look, we have all these giant white grain silos, so why don’t we get together with the local communities and check-out some artists and get a few murals painted on them.’ Might look pretty good!

The end result a 1,000km self-drive art trail that you can start in Perth, and head east and travel through Northam – Merredin – Ravensthorpe - Newdegate – Pingrup – Katanning – and down south to Albany.

One of the largest outdoor art galleries in the world.

At Northam we were taken to the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Centre. This is the best audio/visual presentation on indigenous people I have ever seen. I kept walking back and rechecking the exhibits as there was so much to try and absorb in the short period we had.

There are other attractions along the way, including a Yabby farm, at Kukerin where local yabbies are readied for transporting to the finest restaurants in Australian and around the world

At Newdegate you must visit the Hainsworth Museum, originally a corner store and tea room built in 1933 and now restored by the locals to a time-warp history piece.

Near Lake Grace we enjoyed a wine tasting at Walkers Hill Vineyard. A Chardonnay very dry and crisp with fruit tones. Their Shiraz is big and peppery. But the pick for me was their Drought Rose, plenty of fruit and a little tingle on the tongue.

On to Denmark. Next on our journey was Singlefile Wines, apparently named after the resident geese who would parade around the lake in s single file!

They gather fruit from across The Great Southern and create many award winning wines, including a very special Chardonnay.

Heading west along the cost we arrive at Walpole. This area is highly rated as a tourist destination, with so much to see and do.

We opted for a very special dinner cruise around the lake.

VERY Special: Why? Well in more than 45-years of travel, I have seen countless tour guides and presenters, but here we had Gary Muir! This man is a living legend; I have never experienced anyone with so much passion for his area. He had our group almost rolling around the deck with his comments and antics. I could fill this whole article with asides from his routine. But to do him and this wonderful lake and cruise justice you must not miss his daily cruise.

A short drive has us at The Valley of the Giants at Tingledale.

See giant ancient trees, learn about nature and then take the aerial adventure – The Tree Top Walk – A wheel chair accessible walk that slopes into the canopy of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and Walpole Wilderness, offering spectacular views over densely forested hills. Descending to the boardwalks below to explore the Ancient Empire Walk, you’ll enter a grove of towering veteran tingle trees. /

All of the towns along the trail have their own uniqueness and you will find that the locals are fully supportive of the visiting travellers, many of them arriving with caravans and others in campervans.

Most towns have a free parking area with facilities for the visitors to overnight and freshen up. Also caravan parks, motels and hotels of good to high-end levels.

We tried a variety of accommodation – from farm stay style at Mary Farm Cottages – which were modern fully equipped cottages in a beautiful setting.

At Katanning we were spoilt with staying at the Premier Mill Hotel, which because of its uniqueness really has to be seen and experienced. A former flour mill that was almost due to be demolished has been restored to an intriguing perfection by Nigel Oakey.

Heading then To Walpole we Glamped at the Coalmine Caravan Park. Modern fully contained tents which although compact, have everything you would need for an overnighted of a week or two. During the night there was a heavy downpour and the sound of the rain on the canvas was the best sleeping tonic.

Last on our adventure was Albany, where the grain is sent to sea. It is also the home of the National Anzac Centre honouring the memory of our incredible Anzac’s as over 41,000 departed from Albany’s harbour, the last time most ever laid eyes on their home country.

Food and Beverage. One thing I did see often was the sign “The Best Coffee in Town” and I will have to admit all we tried were excellent.

Food wise we found that many locals have formed a type of co-op to source fresh produce which they then created some extremely delicious presentations, in quaint country restaurants.

Words and images: Michael Osborne

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November 02, 2019

Kimberley Cruising On Wandjina Time


Time moves so slowly in the Kimberley, it might as well stand still. Adventure cruiser, Roderick Eime, faces off with the ancient Wandjina.

Their mouthless faces stare out from the rock ceiling, eyes wide and all-seeing. These are the Wandjina, invisible to mere mortals. The Kimberley of Australia’s North West is their realm and they rule supreme, governing the rain and the life-giving regeneration that follows.

We’re here in the famous cave at Raft Point, possibly the best known of all Wandjina rock art sites in the Kimberley. Their Dreamtime stories are kept alive by local indigenous people like the Mowanjum people from nearby Derby. Their Dreaming stories tell of the first Wandjina, called Idjair, who lives in the Milky Way and is the father of all the Wandjinas who went on to create the Earth.


“The Wandjinas gave the language, the culture and the laws of the country,” says Mowanjum artist Leah Umbagai, “They told us how we have to work the country and how we have to live. So all the laws, language and traditions we got from the Wandjinas. This is a very powerful person or spirit being that we believe in. We are here because of the Wandjinas.”

The oldest Wandjina art was created perhaps 4000 years ago. It is traditionally repainted every few years because the dyes and ochres would otherwise fade and deteriorate. Older still are the Gwion Gwion paintings, now so ancient they are fused in the rock itself and impossible to date by conventional methods. Researchers are confident they are at least 20,000 years old, probably older.

Coming face-to-face with these prehistoric murals is a humbling experience. All of a sudden you realise how fleeting your existence is and how little the Earth cares about your dreams and aspirations.
Even though we may be brief and transient visitors to this realm, it doesn’t stop us marvelling at the grandeur of the creations that surround us here in the Kimberley. The majesty of King George Falls in full flight ranks along with Victoria Falls and Niagara in terms of sheer beauty, if not water volume. The better cruise operators will bring their tenders so close that your whole body will shudder as the cascade plummets 80 metres into the river, enveloping you in a dense, misty spray.

The best way to access these remote wonders is by small ship and expedition cruising has found a solid niche in the Kimberley with more and more vessels plying these remote waters thanks to the accelerating tourism interest in the region. However, with the notorious six-metre tides, patchy charts and tricky currents, local experience comes into its own. This, coupled with the preference to smaller vessels, makes the Kimberley a premium destination for adventure cruise travellers.

One of the acknowledged preeminent operators, is the multi-award-winning True North Adventure Cruises who have seen more than 30 years of continuous operation in the region.

“We are very different to a big ship holiday,” said owner and founder, Craig Howson OAM, “Our itineraries are always activity-based and much more suited to travellers who are looking for a holiday that is also an enriching experience.”

Their luxury expedition vessel, True North, carries just 36 guests in superlative ‘barefoot comfort’, and lavishes guests with such activities as heli-fishing and flightseeing with their onboard jet helicopter, tender exploration into remote tributaries and ecological enrichment thanks to onboard scientists like Dr Andy Lewis, a passionate marine biologist and expedition leader.

For those looking for simpler relaxation, Craig’s team offers unsurpassed fishing in the many tributaries throughout the Kimberley where dedicated anglers can land snapper, mullet, queenfish, mangrove jack or even the legendary barramundi. If you can’t catch a fish in the Kimberley, then you really should give it up.

The Kimberley cruise season is typically between March and September as the weather transitions from wet to dry. Early season has the best waterfalls, while later is best for fishing. The choice is yours, because the Wandjina will be doing their thing regardless, just as they have done since the dawn of time.


October 27, 2019

Akaroa: New Zealand's historic port town

Dallas Sherringham explores a once-sleepy town that only came alive in the summer holidays, but that all changed when the cruise ships started arriving en masse after the earthquake in nearby Christchurch.
The beautiful little town set inside an extinct flooded volcano now hosts 90 cruise ship visits a year, sometimes hosting two in one day.
That puts the population of just 600 under some stress, but business people don't mind as it has extended their opportunities far beyond even the most optimistic of them could ever hope for in days gone by.
And Akaroa has always been a town divided: there is a British town centre and a kilometre away there is a French town centre.
The French kind of "discovered" it first but the British claimed it and the two communities lived side by side for many years.
I learnt all this recently when I arrived on Ruby Princess while cruising from Los Angeles to Sydney via New Zealand and I hopped on a minibus driven by "Big Trevor".
Now Big T, as everyone calls him, knows Akaroa like the back of his hand.  He hosts tens of thousands of visitors every year on his Hop On, Hop Off service around the highlights of the twin towns while telling the story of the area he loves.
High on the hill behind the French town is the world-famous Giants House.
An easy walk from the Akaroa waterfront up Rue de Balguerie, this is a grand and elegant two-storey villa, lovingly restored and converted into a B&B by owner and artist Josie Martin. It was built of native timbers in 1880 for the local bank manager, intended to be impressive, and it certainly awed the toddler who unwittingly named it after saying "it looks like a Giant's house!"
The garden is sensational. Not just because it's beautifully designed and maintained, and full of flowers and topiary, but because of the ornamentation.
 Josie started 20 years ago by using pretty bits of broken china she'd dug up while gardening to make a mosaic doorstep – and just kept going. Now there's a full-size grand piano outside the main entrance, along with an accompanying band, a sailing ship across the lawn, a pool and fountain.
Along the winding paths up through the terracing beside the house are various life-sized and bigger people, cats, dogs, birds and other animals real and imaginary, all painstakingly shaped and decorated with broken china, tile, mirror and glass.
 It's all mosaic: paths, steps and walls, benches, arches and seats, surreal sculptures and realistic figures like mime artist Marcel Marceau, all of them colourful, witty and literally fantastic. There's something new to enjoy around every bend in the path, from ankle-height marvels of delicate artistry to impressive steel-structured engineering looming overhead. French music tinkles, so does the fountain, and time evaporates

In the French quarter also stands Akaroa's fascinating museum which tells the story of the town in professionally designed displays, typography and images. It includes two original rooms of the town's first house, built in the 1840s out of locally cut hardwood.
Across the road are eateries flying the tricolour of the French flag and set beside streets with names starting with "Rue de".
The war memorial, built after World War One, is one of the best I have seen in any country town or village.
If you are travelling the South Island, Akaroa needs to be on your "musts" list.
It is rich in delights ranging from harbour-side restaurants, great walks, penguins, viewing of the rare Hector's dolphin, kayaking, sailing, harbour cruises, tours, sheep dog displays or simply eating fish and chips on the end of the wharf as the sun sets.
 And then there's the shopping: arts, crafts, souvenirs, food, and three colours of pearls, jewellery, possum fur and woollen clothing, wine.
Entering and leaving Akaroa on a ship is spectacular. High, rugged hills and cliffs shrouded in mist and rain with occasional shafts of sunlight spearing through, lighting up the green fields or blue water light a giant spotlight.
Then the tiny town emerges from the mist as you approach it in the ships tender.
And as you leave you already pledge to return one day, such is the allure of New Zealand's very own Brigadoon.
Words and Images: Dallas Sherringham and supplied.
Feature supplied by:

October 17, 2019

Outback ballooning in Australia's Northern Territory

A view of Australia's wondrous Outback the few visitors will see. Ellen and David Hill take to the air in silence and awe.

BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.

Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground on the outskirts of Alice Springs, smack bang in the centre of Australia.

In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.

On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo of Outback Ballooning Alice Springs passengers is carried along with it.

Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.

We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.

The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.

My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.

He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.

Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.

This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.

Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue – 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.

Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The ``Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.

Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.

But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. Sometimes the rains don’t come and the Todd River remains a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.

Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of ochre coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.

Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt.

Reality hits when we’re summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag before breakfast and a glass of sparkling Australian wine or juice.


30 minute flight: $305
60 minute flight: $395
Chase and breakfast for non-flying partners: $50
Separate mandatory insurance fee: $30 per passenger

How to get there:

Passengers are collected from their accommodation in Alice Springs and dropped back after the flight.


Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia) or

October 13, 2019

Cruising royally on Ruby Princess

From Editor At Sea, Dallas Sherringham, on board Ruby Princess

Ruby Princess's first deployment to Australian waters is proving to be a major success with tens of thousands of passengers already booked. Princess fans are a devoted group: I know because I am one of them.

And I am spending a month onboard cruising from LA to Sydney via Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. The weather is sublime, the crew is friendly, the food is great and there is plenty to do and see on board an impressive newer style ship with luxury appointments throughout.

I was sitting chatting with Captain Ron Wilson the other day and he casually asked a group of us what the best feature of the ship was. Bruce from Melbourne came up with the best answer: "When you first walk up the gangplank, you feel like you have come home to a special place."

And that sums up the joy of cruising and the consistency of the Princess brand in particular. We anticipate, they deliver.

There are dining options galore in board including the superb experience of Share by Curtis Stone. The Grill, Pizza Place an International Cafe compliment two formal dining rooms with traditional sittings, a dine any time restaurant and the regular Horizon Court buffet for informal brekky, lunch and dinner.

I have sailed on a lot of Princess ships, but I particularly like "Ruby". She is a happy ship and rides well. There is plenty of deck room and three pools, so she never seems crowded.

The Grand Atrium with beautiful mosaics is the heart of the ship and you can often sit and enjoy relaxing live music while dreaming over a cappuccino or sipping fine wine from Vines.

My cabin on Baja Deck is most relaxing with a roomy balcony to watch the world go by and a king-size bed and plenty of hanging space. The TV options are good with the latest movies, TV series and Live Sports available.

Princess Cruises for all Australians and New Zealanders

Princess Cruises have already announced that the 2019/2020Australian cruise season will be their largest in history, cementing the brand's position as the leading cruise line in Australia and New Zealand. The record-breaking 900+ day deployment will see Princess carry more guests than ever onboard five ships on itineraries from Sydney, Perth (Fremantle), Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland. The maiden arrival of the 113,561 tonne 3,080 guest Ruby Princess and the second season return of the 143,700 tonne 3,560 guest Majestic Princess. Cruising 444 cruise days out of Sydney, Majestic and Ruby will generate a combined landmark capacity of over 100,000 guests, a 25 per cent increase on the 2018/2019 season.

"Princess is gearing up for our largest Australian and New Zealand deployment in history, which will see a record number of people cruising on Princess ships over the 2019/2020 season," said Senior Vice President Princess Cruises Asia Pacific, Stuart Allison "Our largest ever deployment will feature five ships sailing from six homeports on over 125 departures across more than 60 itineraries to over 100 destinations in 30 countries.

The arrival of Ruby Princess, combined with news of Majestic's return before she's completed her maiden season here, means we'll have 2 of the 4 latest Princess ships sailing in this region which speaks to the momentous growth of our market.

"In another milestone, Princess will spend an unprecedented141 days deployed in Fremantle, the largest financial commitment made to the state of Western Australia by a cruise brand. South Australia will also see a surge in cruise ships sailing to and from the region, with Golden Princess, Sun Princess and Majestic Princess completing itineraries to and from Adelaide. In Brisbane, Sea Princess will return to complete itineraries spanning 2 to 35 days, calling to destinations across New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Coral Sea, South Pacific, and Hawaii.

Highlights include a new 10-day voyage to Tasmania, with calls to Burnie, Port Arthur, Hobart, and Sydney. In Melbourne, Golden Princess returns, sailing to destinations in New Zealand, South Australia and the South Pacific. Highlights include a new 14 day Queensland cruise with calls to Airlie Beach, Yorkey's Knob, Port Douglas, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney and a new 7-day Southern Australia Explorer with late-night calls in Adelaide. For more information, see a licensed travel agent; call 1324 88 or visit

Words: Dallas Sherringham, who travelled at his own expense.

Images: Dallas Sherringham (1.2.3.) and supplied

Feature supplied by:

October 06, 2019

Germany’s Romantic Road

Magnificent medieval architecture, the dramatic Alps, pretty green rolling countryside, castles and some of the most picturesque villages in Europe combine to make Germany's Romantic Road a very special drive.  Len Rutledge travels off by heart
We began in Füssen in the south with its large former monastery and castle and finished in Würzburg 350 kilometres to the north. While this drive could have taken four hours, in fact we took three days and felt rushed in the process.
These were some of the highlights.
This small village is home to one of Germany's most iconic sights, Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle that inspired Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a personal retreat, the castle has enough towers, turrets, balconies, pinnacles and sculptures to satisfy anyone.
You can visit the castle with a timed ticket but you will share the trip with hundreds of others during busy times. I suggest the best view is from Marienbrücke, the suspension bridge behind the castle where you can see the dreamy castle in all its glory.
If you have the time, also tour the less-visited Hohenschwangau, the neighbouring castle where King Ludwig II grew up and dreamed about his magical castle.
The city was founded in 15 BC and was a free imperial city until the early 19th century. Due to a flourishing textile trade, luxurious palatial homes, civic buildings, baroque fountains and gothic churches were built.
Constructed in the early 1600s, the "Rathaus" still serves as the administrative centre of the city. Next to it you can climb an ancient Perlachturm tower, built over 1000 years ago to serve as a watchtower.
Towering over the town, Harburg Castle exemplifies medieval architecture. It comes complete with sentry walk, prison tower, dungeon and ballroom. There is a small hotel inside if you wish to stay.
This has beautifully preserved town walls and the Rieskrater Museum, where you'll learn about the meteor that struck this area some 15 million years ago. In fact, the entire almost perfectly round walled old town is built inside a massive crater. Because it sees fewer tourists than Rothenburg or Dinkelsbühl, the other two walled towns, it can be enjoyed more quietly.
Dinkelsbühl was not bombed in the Second World War, so it stands as it was in the Middle Ages, when it was created.
St. George's Minster, a late 15th-century Gothic masterpiece, dominates the town while magnificent gabled buildings, dating from around 1600, line the central Weinmarkt. Many are now restaurants and cafés. The square hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
I strongly suggest a walk on the town walls with their 18 towers and four gates. The views are nice but the thought of walking where many armed defenders have been over hundreds of years makes it something special.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
This is a very popular tourist destination overlooking the Tauber River, so it can get quite crowded. You have a real sense of stepping back into Renaissance era Germany and most visitors love it. The narrow cobblestone streets feel like they haven't changed in hundreds of years.
Late afternoon is the best time after the tourist buses have left and the shops are closing, leaving only the restaurants open. It's a calm atmosphere allowing you to really take in the town.
Rothenburg's well-preserved town walls which completely encircle the old town are great for walking along. It is free and it was one of the highlights for us.
Parking is almost impossible inside the walls so we chose a hotel close by with its own car park and we left our car there the whole time.
Walking along cobbled streets, you'll notice that each building here is special. There are various popular photo points but we equally enjoyed walking the back streets and making our own discoveries.
Bad Mergentheim
This is home to one of Southern Germany's spa resorts. If you're looking for a massage, an Ayurvedic treatment or some time in a sauna, this is the place for you. There is also a large castle and a wonderful Rococo church.
Built around the Main River and surrounded by rolling hills, the city of Würzburg has impressive architecture and a nice vibe.
In 686, three Irish missionaries made a vain attempt to convert the town ruler to Christianity. Later, Würzburg had a bishop appointed and became a duchy as well, and the ruling prince-bishops brought their wealth here causing the city to experience a period of growth and lavishness.
You see this today in the Wurzburger Residenz a baroque palace now inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list and once the seat of the reigning prince-bishop; the rococo-style church Käppele; and Festung Marienberg, a medieval fortress high above the city.
Words: Len Rutledge  Images: Phensri Rutledge
Feature supplied by:

1.      Schloss Neuschwanstein
2.      Dinkelsbühl
3.      Rothenburg
4.      Würzburg

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