Tag Archives: Travel

This Writing Life: Christmas-New Year Australian Adventures 2017

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There’s nothing like a mammoth road trip to wear you out, and we did a beauty over the Christmas-New Year break. Well over 4,000 kilometres (2485+ miles) in total by the time we made it back home.

Not that this is unusual for us. With my family in south-east South Australia and Jim’s in north Queensland, long journeys are unavoidable. Anyway, it’s fun to cruise this vast country of ours. There’s always something wonderful to see or experience, from our natural beauty and fascinating history to our famously dangerous wildlife, and much more in between.

And when you spend so much time in front of a computer like me, sometimes it’s just a blast to tool around in the Aussie outdoors.

Here’s a selection of photos from our time away. Enjoy!

 

We called in to Moree on the trip up and had a lovely dinner with author Nicole Alexander. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to take a pic for you. We were too busy talking!

From Moree it was a cruisy drive to Rockhampton, a place I’ve had a soft spot for from first visit. And here’s a useless fact for you: Central Queensland University, which has its main campus here, is where I gained my post-graduate in business management.

As always, when in Rocky, we wandered down to the Criterion Hotel’s Bush Inn steakhouse for a big meaty feed. Isn’t the hotel beautiful? It was built in 1889 and is ‘cousin’ to Brisbane’s famous Breakfast Creek Hotel, although the Criterion has an extra floor. It also has a ghost, believed to be a chambermaid who died in the late 1800s, although no one seems to be sure.

Criterion Hotel, Rockhampton

Criterion Hotel, Rockhampton

Read more about the history of the hotel on its website.

Ah, I do so love a good equestrian statue! This – so the plaque informed me – is of Charles Archer and his horse Sleipner, who, on 1st September 1855, made rendezvous with his brother Colin Archer in the ketch Elida on the banks of the Fitzroy River, and thus the site of Rockhampton was determined.

Charles Archer statue, Rockhampton

Christmas was spent in Collinsville, which now advertises itself as the Pit Pony Capital of Australia, thanks to the historic use of ponies in the coal mine. Although they weren’t ponies, they were Clydesdales. Collinsville was the last mine in Australia to use pit ponies, with Wharrier and Mr Ed only being retired in 1990, which is kind of gobsmacking.

Timing meant I didn’t get to visit The Pit Pony Experience this trip but I will next time I’m up so I can learn more about the ponies and community.

A handsome statue has been installed in town to honour the lives of these animals. Naturally, being a horsey sculpture, I took lots of snaps. He was decorated for Christmas and looking very jaunty.

Pit pony statue, Collinsville

My father-in-law has the best big boy’s toys. This is just a small example. Next trip I’m going to have a go at the loader myself. And the digger. Wouldn’t mind a play with a big truck either but knowing me I’d probably break it. After all, I managed to mangle a header at agricultural college during harvest which did NOT go down well. Oops.

Big boys toys

The barbeque had a hanger on. These hornet nests are quite extraordinary, heavy and densely structured, but look how delicate the entrance funnel is. It’s almost a work of art in itself.

Hornets nest

We snuck into Bowen on Christmas Eve to raid the fish co-op and enjoy a tasty lunch at the yacht club. Did you know Bowen was where they filmed the Darwin scenes for the movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman? The town is very proud of the fact and even has BOWENWOOD painted in big letters on the water tower. Such an Australian thing to do. I really wanted to get a snap of that but the best vantage point was the highway and I didn’t think getting skittled on Christmas Eve was a good idea.

One of the signs near the tourist office celebrating Bowen's role in the making of the movie Australia.

One of the signs near the tourist office celebrating Bowen’s role in the making of the movie Australia.

The original big mango (which once made headlines for being “kidnapped” overnight) is on the Bruce Highway but there’s a smaller one, known as mini-mango, in town. I thought I’d show it Wayward Heart. Perfectly normal thing to do.

Tooling around in Bowen.

Tooling around in Bowen.

Post-Christmas we headed north to Townsville. The Strand was looking gorgeous, with plenty of people making use of the water park and patrolled beaches. I adore the fig trees; some of them are fantastical in shape and look more suited to a Lord of the Rings type movie set than a tropical promenade.

Strand water park

Strand beach

Fig tree

Townsville has some wonderful architecture, including the former Queens Hotel and Customs House.

The former Queens Hotel

The former Queens Hotel

Customs house

Customs house

The Strand is also home to several sculptures. This one is new since our last visit. It’s called Bazza and Shazza and was created by James Cook University alumni Jan Hynes. Isn’t it cool?

Bazza and Shazza Sculpture, The Strand, Townsville

Bazza and Shazza with Magnetic Island in the background.

At the top end of The Strand lies Jezzine Barracks. This redeveloped 15-hectare site celebrates the aboriginal and military history of the Kissing Point headland. The original fort was established in 1870, and the site was in continuous military use from 1885 until 2006. The views over the rockpool and bay are lovely and worth the climb, even in the heat.

View from Jezzine Barracks

View from Jezzine Barracks

This might be hard to read but this is a section of plaque in one of the barracks’ memorials that tells of the bravery of Private Jim Gordon VC. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry while saving his unit by capturing a pill box near Jezzine, northern Syria. As if that wasn’t enough, he was offered a SECOND Victoria Cross for his actions on the Kokoda Track, but turned it down unless the rest of his section were also similarly recognised. What an incredible man.

Private Jim Gordon VC

Private Jim Gordon VC

Here are some of the other memorials in the barracks.

A Jezzine Barracks memorial

A Jezzine Barracks memorial

Naturally, we played golf. Usually we’d play all three local courses but a 3.5 metre saltwater crocodile had moved into The Willows and I was buggered if I was going to play there. With everything else biting me I was bound to be snapped at.

Apparently they’ve since managed to capture one croc but it was only 2.3 metres long which means the 3.5 metre could be still out there… waiting.

Newspaper article about the Willows crocodile

Speaking of bities, here’s a green ant nest I spotted at Rowes Bay Golf Club.

green ant nest

Not something I’d like to bump into.

Castle Hill viewed from Rowes Bay Golf Club

Castle Hill viewed from Rowes Bay Golf Club

And another bitey, although in this case it’s a fake one draping the street in front of the Museum of Tropical Queensland. I bet that’s given more than a few intoxicated revellers leaving the Flinders Street nightclub strip a fright or ten.

Flinders Street spider

We called back into Collinsville on the way back because the local cattle needed to be shown Wayward Heart too. And don’t they look fascinated.

Wayward Heart with cows

Which reminds me, we struck a nasty storm near Guthalungra. Horrible to drive through but dramatic to look at.

Storm - near Guthalungra

It can be ridiculously expensive to buy healthy food when you’re travelling so we pack picnics and make use of roadside stops. It’s great. Mostly. At one stop on the upward journey we set up at a table only to discover halfway through eating our sandwiches that there was a paper wasp nest beneath. Poor Jim copped a few stings, which made for a deal of unhappiness.

Ever wondered why Banana in central Queensland (and not a banana tree in sight) was called Banana? I have, plenty of times, and now, thanks to this sign, I know the answer and so do you.

Why Banana is called Banana

In case you can’t read it, the piece about Banana on the sign’s left reads:

In bygone days of bullock drays Banana led the team, an enormous yellow bullock who died beside a stream. The years have passed “Banana’s creek” tells of the bullock’s fame, for a town grew up beside it and BANANA is its name.

There’s even a statue and memorial to good ol’ Banana. What fun!

Banana the bullock

I’ve forgotten how many times we’ve passed through Condamine, on the western Darling Downs, over the years and wished we could stop at its wonderful old pub, but we could never seem to fit it in our schedule. This trip we did, and so, after a long day on our bums, we enjoyed a refreshing leg-stretching walk around town followed by a cold beer and great counter meal. Bewdiful.

Condamine Bell Hotel

Condamine Bell Hotel

Enjoying a beer at Condamine pub

Flood marker - Condamine

The flood marker at Condamine. Look how high the 2011 flood is!

Condamine is tiny, with a population of 400 or so. What it’s most famous for is the Condamine Bell, invented by blacksmith Samuel Williams Jones. He was the first to manufacture stock bells out of sheet metal from crosscut saws.

I remember memorising a wonderfully romantic-sounding poem about this in year 10 in school, which I then had to recite to the class. It was called Condamine Bells by Jack Sorensen and I’m still able to recite lines by heart. You can read the poem in full here. As you can imagine, I was rather chuffed to visit the memorial bell.

The Condamine Bell

The Condamine Bell

A few days after returning home we zoomed off to Canberra to visit the excellent A History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition at the National Museum and take a bazillion more photos. I’d include those but I think this post is long enough as it is. If you’re interested, highlights can be found on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

I hope you had fun with this peek at our latest Australian adventures. We certainly had fun living it!

Did you have any adventures over the break?

FRIDAY FEAST with Karly Lane

Happy Friday and greetings from sunny Brisbane! Once again I’ve ventured north, this time for all the fabulousness that is GenreCon. A weekend of non-stop chatter, laughter and learning is about to ensue and I can’t wait!Karly Lane, Australian Author

Just as I can’t wait to introduce today’s Friday Feast guest, Australian author Karly Lane. Karly has been on my auto-buy list since I devoured her debut novel North Star in record time. I loved it so much that I shot off a gushy fan-girl email the moment I finished, telling Karly how much I loved it and looked forward to the next. Karly’s next two reads, Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice were as un-put-downable as North Star and now she has a new one out, excitingly titled Burnt. Sexy title, gorgeous cover and a completely hooking blurb. You’ll want this book!

 

BURNT

 

Cover of Burnt by Karly LaneSeb Taylor and Rebecca Whiteman were high school sweethearts dreaming of a future together when one terrible night forever changed their destiny.

18 years later, Rebecca has brought her children back to the town she left behind, to start a new life.

Seb, an elite SAS soldier has returned home injured, angry and grieving to face a town that hasn’t forgotten and a father who has never understood him. 

With a failed marriage behind her, two children to support and a heavy breather who won’t stop calling her; the last thing she needed was for her first love to make a sudden reappearance in her life.

From bestselling author of Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice comes a story of love, forgiveness and bravery that will touch your heart.

 

I bet Burnt will touch your heart. You can own a copy right now with just a few clicks. For a paperback copy, try Amazon, where you can also buy the ebook for your Kindle. Other ebook resellers include Barnes and Noble for Nook and iTunes. Instant reading fun!

Now please welcome our globetrotting guest, Karly Lane…

 

So two Australians walk into a bar in Louisiana…

 

The last few weeks for me have been a whirlwind of travelling and experiencing new things—food being one of the best. On a previous visit to America I’d discovered that there were quite a few differences between Australian and US food. McDonalds, for example…now you’d think that an international conglomerate like Macca’s would have a standard menu and be the same whether you were in Aus or the US. They don’t.

You think you’d be pretty safe ordering a coke? You’re not.

‘What KIND of coke would you like?’

Ok, so maybe I’ll just have lemonade. ‘I’ll have lemonade, thanks’.

(Much to my delight, their lemonade is ACTUAL lemonade! Like REAL lemon, lemonade!)  The equivalent of what we call lemonade is Mountain dew ( in case you were wondering.)

Okay, so food…well, let me tell you, when we stopped in New Orleans (Neworlands) with friends, we had the BEST food. We were taken on a gastronomical delight of new food and flavours that we’ve decided we must try and recreate for our family back home.

First stop, we were taken to the French Quarter of New Orleans to experience the Majesty that is a Beignet (French donut). Oh-Em-Geeeeee! This delicious contraption is amazing!

Photo of delicious beignets from New Orleans

Crawfish Etouffeeseafood gumboAt lunch time and we were introduced to such delights as Crawfish Etouffee and Seafood Gumbo in quaint little restaurants that you can find scattered alongside the bayous all over Louisiana.

Sully's restaurantOur host ordered Frogs Legs, which actually were more the size of chicken drum sticks and I was VERY happy not to have seen one of these ginormous frogs on our travels!

frogs legs

Our hosts entertained us with a family meal which consisted of Chicken Gumbo, Boudin (Cajun sausage with pork and rice), Jambalaya and for desert a King cake, which is kind of like a big donut filled with custard-type stuff, and comes with Mardi Gras beads and a plastic baby that gets thrown in and whoever finds it… nope, you aren’t supposed to get pregnant, you’re supposed to host the next party! How cool is that!

king cake

They’re also big on their cocktails. Some, like the Grenade, I decided not to try. However we did have a Hurricane. But my favourite drink of choice was a Margarita…a frozen Margarita.

Frozen margarita

Needless to say we gained a few pounds in the few short days we spent in and around the New Orleans area!

 

Karly, what a ball you must have had! Discovering new tasty delights is one of the best things about travel and you sure did some tasting. Everyone I know who’s been to New Orleans has loved it and I think I’ve just raised it a notch on my bucket list. Thanks so much for sharing some of your trip with us, that was great fun.

So my footloose and fancy-free Feasters, what location ranks highest on your bucket list? Do you long for the rarefied air of Machu Picchu? Perhaps a stroll down a Parisian boulevard or adventure rafting in some far-flung location is more your thing? Me, I really, really want to go to Greece. Think of all that ancient history and fantastic food!

So for where does your heart hanker? Curious minds wish to know.

Speaking of hankering (oh, I am the segue QUEEN!), keep your eye out for Karly’s December release Poppy’s Dilemma which is a book very close to Karly’s heart and one I cannot wait to read. In the meantime, sink your teeth into Burnt!

If you’d like to learn more about Karly and her books please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

FRIDAY FEAST with Joan Kilby

Okay, I know I say this every week but today I really am excited. Contemporary romance author and all round lovely person Joan Kilby is my Friday Feast guest today and WHAT a post she has for us. I’m squirming in my seat right now I’m so thrilled! Squirming and drooling and thinking that I’m so inspired I might have to sneak into the city for a session at that Asian gem Little Malaysia (faaaaab restaurant off Little Bourke Street in Melbourne).

Now, when Joan isn’t making me horribly jealous with her travels, she writes wonderfully emotional contemporary romances for Harlequin Super Romance and Carina Press. Twenty-two of them to date! Joan’s latest is a wonderful story titled Protecting Her Son and it’s been gaining some rave reviews like this from Bookish Jottings:

Sparkling with believable characters that jump off the page, wry humour, nail-biting intrigue and emotional romance, Protecting Her Son is a superb tale of old wounds, second chances and healing love from the outstanding pen of Joan Kilby. Julie Bonello, Bookish Jottings

Take a closer look…

PROTECTING HER SON

 

Crossing the thin blue line…

Paula Drummond is finally back on a police force. And with so much at stake–she’s a single mum atoning for an almost career-ending mistake–she’s not risking anything but stellar performance. That means, regardless of whatever attraction is brewing between her and her partner, Officer Riley Henning, she will not get involved.

Still, working side by side with a man as hot as Riley and not giving in to temptation isn’t easy. Especially when he goes above and beyond to help keep her son safe. With all that evidence piling up, it seems as though her partner on the job is destined to become her partner in bed…and maybe even in life.

 

Sounds like a brilliant read, doesn’t it? Protecting Her Son is available for purchase now direct from Harlequin, from Amazon and many other bookstores.

And now I pass you on to Joan. Enjoy!!

 

Travels With My Stomach

 

I love traveling in Asia, mainly, I have to admit, for the food. Penang, especially, is a foodie’s paradise with fabulous Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food and local specialities.

One of my favorite eateries is a Chinese vegetarian restaurant, Luk Yea Yan on Jalan Macalister. They do an amazing breakfast/lunch buffet with forty different vegetarian dishes and four types of rice. I’m not vegetarian but I love this food.

The day I took this photo we were early, before all of the dishes were out, but by nine o’clock every bain marie is full.

The veggies are super fresh. Every morning a small army of women can be seen out back through the open-sided building, cutting up bushels of produce.

And the tofu! In Melbourne, even in Asian suburbs like Springvale, we have a limited range of tofu but at this restaurant there must be about twenty different types of tofu and soy protein foods.

My favourite dish is a mock lemon chicken that has a crispy outside, a layered chewy-smooth interior in a light tangy lemon sauce. So delicious!

The food is not only delicious and healthy, it’s incredibly cheap. Mike’s heaping plate cost about $3.

For dinner we ate at the nearby Indian Nasi Kandar restaurant. The chicken tikka is tender and succulent, best I’ve ever had. They also make fresh roti, stretching the dough filo-thin on a big griddle and folding it into ghee-licious layers.

Mike’s favourite roti was murtabak, filled with chicken, onions and egg and eaten with a spicy sambar gravy.

My guilty pleasure was roti bom laced with condensed milk. If I closed my eyes I would have sworn I was eating a warm Danish pastry.

(I didn’t have my camera with me that day so the murtabak and roti bom photos are from the Internet.)

One day we took the funicular railway up Penang Hill and came across an Indian hawker selling this chickpea snack. He told me the ingredients but not the quantities.

I came up with the following recipe at home. You could vary the quantities to taste.

 

Penang Hill Chickpea Snack

400 gm tin chickpeas (about 1 1/3 cups)

1/2-1 cup Bombay mix (a spicy Indian snack mix available from supermarkets)

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1/3 English cucumber, diced

Juice of half a lime

Heat the chickpeas in the microwave. Mix well with the other ingredients, adding the Bombay mix last so it stays crunchy longer. Enjoy as a snack or side dish. Eat it with a spoon or fork unless you don’t mind getting your fingers messy.

 

After Penang we headed to Bali. When we first went there many years ago the food was spicy and everything was fresh. Now that tourism has exploded the food has become westernized and bland even in the remote fishing village in Amed where we spent most of our time. (Amed features in my Superromance, To Be A Family, out later in 2012.)

We did find a fab little restaurant in Sanur called The Coconut Tree. Their nasi goreng, made with organic vegetables, was probably the best we’ve had anywhere.

Our favorite dessert in Bali were the banana wraps at our small hotel. They’re probably not authentic Indonesian food but they’re really yummy and very simple to make. One day I watched the girls prepare them so I could replicate the dish at home.

 

Banana Wraps with Coconut and Melted Palm Sugar

-Thin pancakes*

-Sugar bananas (regular bananas will do but they need to be ripe and sweet)

-butter to fry in

-fresh coconut, grated**

-melted palm sugar (maple syrup is great, too)

Make the pancake and keep it warm. Slice a banana in half lengthways and fry in butter till hot and lightly caramelized. Put the halves of the banana back together and roll up in the pancake. Chop the pancake into chunky pieces and arrange in a log or in a circle. Sprinkle over a generous helping of grated fresh coconut and drizzle with melted palm sugar or pure maple syrup.

*the pancake should be about 3 millimetres thick. I found a crepe batter was too thin so I used an American pancake recipe and thinned it down with skim milk.

**grating the coconut by hand gives the most aesthetically pleasing result but is time-consuming. When I have dinner guests I hand grate it. When it’s just for the family I blitz it in the food processer. Tastes the same, just doesn’t look as nice.

 

On an earlier trip to Cambodia we saw women making palm sugar by the side of the road. They tap the sugar palm much like a maple tree and boil up the sap over open fires until it crystalizes. The palm sugar is completely different and much nicer than that which we buy in shops here. It actually tastes a lot like maple sugar.

While in Siem Riep we loved the Cambodian barbecue–paper thin beef grilled on a charcoal-filled cone and surrounded by stock in which we cooked the veggies. The yellow dipping sauce was absolutely delicious. I don’t know what was in it and I’ve never been able to find a recipe. Does anyone have any ideas?

 

I’d love to hear about favourite dishes you’ve encountered on your travels–wherever that may be. Did you try to make it later at home, and was it successful?

I’m giving away a copy of my latest Superromance, PROTECTING HER SON to one lucky commenter. The book was a March 2012 North American release and will be out in August 2012 in Australia and New Zealand.

 

Thank you so, so much, Joan, for your amazing post. The photos and descriptions are gorgeous. I have severely itchy feet right now, but it looks like I might just have to satisfy my foodie wanderlust with some banana wraps. Far out, that looks gooooood! And don’t get me started on murtabaks…

Now, my drooly feasty lovelies, you heard Joan. We have a wonderful, wonderful book up for grabs. All you have to do is share a favourite dish from your travels and any success (or failure) you had in recreating it. I have one – the goat’s cheese tart taught to me by a lovely lady in Provence. The version I make here is okay, but doesn’t compare to the one made at Tessa’s cooking school. It’s the goat’s cheese. She used this amazingly wrinkly smelly one that gave the tart fantastic piquancy that I can’t seem to recreate. Sigh. Will just have to go back…

Giveaway open internationally (rah!). But you need to be quick because it closes midnight Tuesday, 19th June 2012 AEST.

If you’d like to learn more about Joan and her books please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.