What if ………..

It was rather confronting for me today to be faced with pictures of the plane that crashed shortly after take off from Kathmandu airport on its way to Lukla, bursting into flames and killing all on board.

Its passengers were people just like me and just like those who will be joining me on my trek next year. I feel deeply for the families of those people who, like all of us who love to travel, were following their dream.

But it begs the question, should we let ‘what if’s’ deter us from travelling? I don’t. This plane crash is a tragedy and has made news world wide, made all the more devastating through the suddenness of the accident and the visually explicit vision we are seeing.

But does a pile up on a motorway stop us from renting a car and travelling that same route on our holidays a few weeks later? Does a train crash in a major European city stop us from taking that same train ride when we’re there? Generally not.

In life generally, the ‘what if’s’ don’t stop us, if they did we would struggle to step outside our front door, let alone get in a car.

An on-line friend Gail Cooper and her husband leave London this weekend en route to Kathmandu. On Wednesday they will take that same flight in which those people lost their lives today, heading for Lukla, the starting point of their trek to Everest Base Camp.

This disaster hasn’t stopped them but no doubt today’s events will be uppermost in their minds as their plane taxis down the runway.

My thoughts are with the families of those whose lives have been lost in pursuit of their dreams and to the Nepalese people who put their own lives at risk every day to help us fulfil those dreams.

For the Love of Kathmandu

If you’re anything like me, when you’re going away on holiday, you tend to do a bit of research first. These days it’s not just a matter of getting travel brochures from the travel agent to drool over or maybe taking a trip to the local library to borrow one of those coffee table books with the glossy pictures in. That’s what we did way back in 1979 when we took our first European trip.

Now though we have the amazingly helpful tool that is Google.

Sometimes a good thing (beautiful pictures and helpful information), sometimes not so good (as in, you’ll be landing at the most dangerous airport in the world – why not u – tube it?).

So it was, while researching all things remotely connected to my upcoming destination, that I came across a lady synonymous with Kathmandu and mountaineering in the region.

Elizabeth Hawley is an 89 year old American renowned for her meticulously researched and comprehensive database on all expeditions that leave from Kathmandu.

If you’re in to biographies this one is fascinating and I must admit to buying yet another book. Born in 1923 in Chicago, Elizabeth enrolled in the University of Michigan in 1941 and went on to gain a Masters degree in history before starting work for Fortune magazine as an editorial researcher.

This position saw her travelling through the Americas and Canada and sparked in Elizabeth a lust for travel that would eventually see her embark on a round the world journey. She was one of the pioneers of solo travel for women and in the late 1950s travelled through Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, South East Asia and Japan by train, bus and boat.

It was on this journey that she visited Kathmandu and fell in love with the place, although she returned to America to put her affairs in order, Kathmandu was to be her home to this day.

Her initial work here during the early years involved being a correspondent for Time-Life and Reuters, reporting on politics and culture. During this time she became part of the Kathmandu scene, meeting Nepalese royalty, politicians, adventurers and mountaineers and it was from association with the mountaineering community that the database began.

Elizabeth’s attention to detail and determination to acquire all of the facts has resulted in the most detailed information being collected and compiled on every expedition since the early 1960s. She was a close friend of Sir Edmund Hillary and is the Executive Officer of his Himalayan Trust.

She still meets with every expedition leader and is constantly adding to the database and, with her old blue VW Beetle as her means of transport, she’s a well known figure in Kathmandu.

What do you bring home?

When you bring souvenirs back from your travels, what do you bring?

Is it the miniature version of the iconic building wherever you’ve been, the Eiffel tower, the Colosseum or the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Or maybe it’s the Gondola from Venice or the tartan kilt from Scotland.

Or do you collect spoons from all the places you’ve visited?

I’ve done all of the above in my many years of travel, but it got to a point when I had to consider why I needed all of those souvenirs. I’ve got the photos and the memories and really, how much space do I have left in my cupboards, because, let’s face it, that’s where they all end up.

I think I figured this out a few years ago, somewhere around the time I actually got rid of a lot of those souvenirs that I’d had for thirty years. It’s really difficult sometimes to stop yourself buying the cute and the memorable but I do try to be a little more discerning now in what I buy overseas.

So, you may ask, what do I bring home from my travels now, apart from the credit card bill that is.

There are two things that I have a real weakness for and do tend to buy while I’m away – pens and clothes!!

I cannot resist buying pens, and, let’s face it for someone who writes, they do come in awfully handy. They’re also easy to pack and don’t weigh much and they’re cheap, which is a huge bonus. The one by my side at the moment was bought in Florence and has Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches wound around it, another one on my desk came from the Pinctada Hotel in Broome …. Hmmmm …. Didn’t say I always bought them. Then there’s one from Rome, one from the British Museum and the Golliwog one I bought in the Lake District.

As for clothes, they are definately not cheap, but they are definitely a weakness of mine. But when people admire something I’m wearing and I say ‘oh yes, bought that in Paris,’ it sort of makes me feel a little bit … mmmm …. you know what I mean….

Here’s some of my favourites, what are your favourite souvenirs?

My all time favourite – bought in Florence

And the bag it came in – couldn’t resist!

A bit of colour from Rivett & Blair in Melbourne

From Poppi Red in Hawkeshead – a beautiful villahe in the Lake District.

And the leather jacket from Naf Naf in Paris

Exhausted? Nah … well, maybe just a tad tired.

For those who may be remotely interested, and to make me feel very virtuous and just maybe brag a little, I thought I’d update you on my training so far for THE TREK.

Since I found THE STEPS, at the beginning of August I’ve climbed them 65 times. Yes, you heard right – 65 times down and then 65 times back up, 120 steps each time. My mental arithmetic won’t quite stretch that far but the calculator tells me I’ve climbed 7,800 steps in 7 weeks.

When I started I struggled to climb them just once, yesterday, before the shocking weather we’re having today set in, I went up them 7 times. There have been a couple of weekend mornings when I’ve managed 10 times, but that was with an hours walk in the middle.

As I said – am feeling very virtuous.

My next step (pardon the pun) is to do a day hike on part of the Bibbulmun Track. Just need to get myself organised.

With the weather as it is today I certainly won’t be venturing outdoors, I think it’ll be a few kms on the treadmill and maybe some ab crunches. Apparently one of the best exercises for the abs is The Plank, so far I’ve managed about 20 seconds, need to build that up to about 60 seconds. I can feel the pain!!

Mandurah – Betwixt & Between

Mandurah is trying to find itself. It’s having a bit of trouble deciding exactly what it wants to be.

Mandurah, an hour south of Perth, has always been a sleepy little backwater but a very attractive backwater all the same. It holds precious memories for my family. It’s the place we always used to come as a family to picnic on the estuary foreshore, fish from the jetty or the local beaches and eat fish and chips wrapped in paper while struggling to keep the seagulls from our dinner. We would go prawning and crabbing and return to mum and dad’s place when they lived down here, to cook them up and have a beer and a crab supper. In the heat of summer we would walk to the grassy banks of the foreshore and eat ice creams in the shade of the ancient trees. At dusk on a summer’s evening with ice cream in hand we would relax there and listen to the band playing over the water at the Peninsular Hotel.

That’s the way it was, there was one road in and one road out and we loved it.

Fishing from the jetty with Nanna & Grandad was always a favourite with my daughters

I’ve just spent four days in Mandurah in an attempt to just have a break. I got what I came for, a break, but it was interesting to view the place from a visitor’s perspective after all this time. While I was there I came across an advert in the newspaper, yes, I had time to read a newspaper, asking for input into the debate on whether Mandurah should become ‘a bustling metropolis or keep the feel of a fishing village.’

Personally, I think it’s a bit late to ask the question. Mandurah has changed, there’s no denying that, it’s no longer the sleepy place it was 20 or 30 years ago. But what has it changed into? It’s almost as though it’s tried to change but hasn’t quite got there. It’s in no man’s land, neither here nor there.

Shiny new high rises

The old Peninsular hotel has gone, replaced with a multi storey hotel and an apartment block. The creation of a canal development and Ocean Marina, both lined with apartment buildings has produced an abundance of accommodation and there’s the Performing Arts Centre, the Boardwalk and Cultural Precinct and a new shopping precinct at Dolphin Quay. There are several coffee shops and restaurants offering everything from Thai and Indian food to the ubiquitous fish n chips. BUT …..  there is no vibe. Actually there’s nothing happening here.

The new Dolphin Quay Marina

When I arrived on Sunday afternoon it was a busy place, it was a hot afternoon, families were out and there was fun being had but I’ve just spent two hours walking around the place and stopping for coffee and I’ve seen a handful of people. The shops, the boardwalk, the beaches – deserted. Now I know it’s the middle of the week but I also know that Hillary’s Boat Harbour in the northern suburbs of Perth, a similar venue, is packed with tourists and locals on any weekday morning. A holiday destination can’t survive on weekend trade alone.

Hmmm … wonder how I can get one of those?

Perth itself struggles with the concept of change and I think Mandurah’s outlook is even worse. You get the impression that it sort of feels that it should try and keep up with the rest of the world but it’s not quite sure. It’s made a lame attempt to provide something in the way of world class attractions but it’s not really prepared to stand up and say ‘yep – here we are world.’ It’s more a case of ‘yeh – here we are if you want to come find us, not really sure if we want you to though.’

Deserted!

Mandurah has such potential, what they have done in the way of the Marina is an excellent start but, if they want to compete in a highly competitive travel market, they need to build on that and grow.

The fact is that family holiday’s are changing. Rightly or wrongly, children and teenagers in general no longer want local holidays, they want to fly off to Bali or somewhere more distant and it’s cheaper too. Places like Mandurah now need to attract the interstate and overseas market.

Apart from eating and drinking, the only thing on offer for the holiday maker here is a river cruise. It’s very telling that in all of the advertising paraphernalia that I’ve been able to find, Mandurah is advertised along with the rest of the Peel region. Which is fine if you’re touring by car, a visit to Mandurah for a day and then onwards to see the rest of the area, but what does that do for Mandurah businesses? Not a lot I’m told. As the owner of one clothing shop told me, ‘ there is such potential here but they have to bring the place in line with the rest of the world,’ she went on to say that, although there was a really well situated hotel on the sea front, it had no restaurant. Can you imagine a hotel in Bali or Singapore or even Sydney, not having a restaurant.

As I see it, Mandurah needs to make up its mind what it wants to be and where it’s going. If it wants to promote itself as a world class holiday destination it needs some serious consideration giving to what’s missing, it needs to put in place an infrastructure that will allow development along the lines of other world renowned destinations. If not, it needs to stop right now, stop spending money on restaurants that remain empty, boardwalks that no one walks on and beaches that no one lazes away the afternoon on.

No half measures. You either join the rest of the world or you opt out.

Personally, I like the Mandurah that the rest of the world doesn’t know about, but then, I don’t own a business there.

I Will Fly … High

This post spoke to me this morning and just seemed appropriate. Penny has some wonderful thoughts on life and it’s worth visiting her. Enjoy the sunshine 🙂

The Why About This

I Will Fly … High!

We (all of us) are the compilation of our journey through life – our struggles, our sorrows, our joys and successes.

Birds fly. They, with glorious feathered wings, descend into the heavens to soar high above the sky – ennobled through their freedom of flying.

We humans are earthbound it seems, forever to have our feet on the earth of the ground.

But is this a truth? Are we? After all we are creatures of our own making. Do we not control our destinies, chose the direction we would follow?

Perhaps … if we so desire … we can set free our imaginations, our dreams and we too can fly.

Fly today my friends, fly high…touch the sky!

To Touch the Sky

I would fly

if I could,

I might close my eyes,

spreading arms open wide

and rise up

touch the sky.

And now that I think on it

perhaps

a…

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A Little Whimsy from the West

You generally don’t expect to see cows in the main street – of anywhere. But I had to do a double take as I drove into Cowaramup a couple of days ago. I know I’d been driving for 3 hours but I really didn’t think I was seeing things.

Apparently the Lions Club and the local Retailer’s Association have combined forces to import these whimsical cows and set them up in the main street of Cowaramup for the pleasure of the tourists. There’s about a dozen of them and they certainly make you smile … and that’s a good thing.

And for those of you who don’t know what you’re missing here in the South West of Western Australia, this is Cowaramup Bay on a beautiful spring day.

And just to prove that I’m not neglecting the training while I’m away from home, I found some steps. Three hundred of them – down into the Lake Cave near Margaret River and of course, as I’ve mentioned before what goes down must come back up. I was quite pleased with myself though, I barely raised a puff.