Braving the Blue Tongue.

It’s interesting to see how my decision to travel to Nepal next May and trek to Everest Base Camp has exposed me to so many new experiences.

Having to train for this trip has forced me out of the comfort of home and opened up the world of flora and fauna to me. I’ve always enjoyed trips to the country, I used to love camping when the family was young but I’ve never been one to get overly close to nature, particularly when it involves things with scales and sharp teeth. Lately though I’ve become so much more adventurous and I’m taking bigger steps outside my comfort zone.

On my hike around Bells Rapids a couple of weeks ago I came across a veritable menagerie of wildlife. Driving in on the approach road I had to slow down to avoid three turkeys strolling across the road, oblivious to the danger from the oncoming car and the Christmas season. Seconds later and a rabbit shot across in front of me while a couple of kangaroos bounded across the track half way through the hike. No partridge in a pear tree though.

None of those guys hung around for me to take a photo but this little fellow wasn’t quick enough and we managed to get a closer look. I will point out that you should never handle a snake – no matter how small – unless you know what you’re doing. I don’t, so I left it to my training partner while I played the role of photographer from a distance.

This last weekend though was one of my braver moments when we came across a couple of Blue Tongued Lizards sunning themselves on the track. They kindly obliged and allowed us to get a closer look.

Now I should point out that all things categorised as creepy or crawley generally have me in avoidance mode, but my spirit of adventure must be kicking in because I was coaxed into making this guy’s acquantance.

The Blue Tongued Lizard is generally friendly and slow moving so I figured I shouldn’t be in too much trouble. They are often found in backyards in the more bushy areas and quickly become used to humans, you generally have no trouble getting close to them but again, don’t pick them up if you don’t know how.

Posing for the camera and looking suitably viscious

They have a big head and long body with short legs and small feet. Their unique feature is their bright blue tongue and though I’ve seen quite a few lizards over the years I’ve never actually spotted their blue tongue.

And there’s that blue tongue

If you get your finger anywhere near this guy’s mouth he will latch on and it will hurt but his main defence when under threat is bluff. He’ll hiss and open his pink mouth shooting out his bright blue tongue in an attempt to intimidate.

Very impressed with myself – this was the bigger of the two!

I’m feeling very brave after that little encounter.

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Stormy weather.

After a humid week, a major storm front passed over Perth a couple of hours ago, so a perfect opportunity to try out my new camera.

And then the hail hit

After a spectacular few minutes we have the final after glow:

I’m still trying to get the hang of this camera and learn what it can do and what I should be doing to make the most of it. Stay tuned, hopefully there’s more to come.

There are some Amazing people out there!

When I initially set up my fundraising page with PLAN I had to set a target. I was worried when I set it that I wouldn’t be able to reach it, but there are some AMAZING people out there and, through your generosity, we’ve already hit the $1,000 mark.  Wow!

Some of these people are friends, others I’ve come to know through the blogging world but there are some who I’ve no idea who they are. To all of you wonderful people goes a huge thank you.

By supporting me on my trek to Everest Base Camp next May to celebrate my 60th birthday and the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mt Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, your donations are helping out with the Because I’m a Girl campaign.

Girls washing their hands in clean water in Vietnam.

This campaign aims in particular to promote the education of girls by fostering an awareness in their communities of the advantages of extending the time a girl spends in school.

One in three girls around the world is denied an education with less than half the girls in the developing countries completing primary school. One in seven girls in developing countries is married by the age of fifteen, in Indonesia 36% of marriages involve children under the age of sixteen.

With your support girls like 15 year old Lamana are empowered to change their future. Lamana was forced to marry a man twice her age who beat her when she tried to leave the house. Despite the disapproval of her community, Lamana fought  to leave her violent husband. With Plan’s help and her family’s support she has moved back home and returned to school allowing her to regain her confidence.

Girls at a Plan supported school in Sierra Leone

Research shows that just one extra year of schooling can boost girls eventual wages by 10 to 25 per cent. This has a long term ripple effect on the wellbeing of their families and communities.

So, although my fundraising is going well I would urge you all to help me out here and keep up the momentum by donating to this worthy cause. You can hit the donate tab up the top there or head straight to http://fundraise.plan.org.au/travellingbag

Improving the education of girls will act as a positive step towards a more just world.

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Cakey Delights Pt. 2

As promised, for Top 10 Tuesday, here’s Part 2 of my idea of cakey heaven. If you missed Part 1 last week then pop back and have a look. This week’s choices start close to home and move further away as we go down the list.

7. Margaret River Chocolate Company – with two venues, the original near Margaret River in the south west of Western Australia and a replica in the Swan Valley, just outside Perth, they do the most divine and chocolaty chocolate brownies you could imagine. They come with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.  There’s an absolute abundance of other sweet treats too. This one’s too close to home, my willpower tends to cave in to this place.

A tempting array at the Margaret River Chocolate Company

8. The Bridge Restaurant, Ubud – I’ve mentioned this place before. The staff, the service, the food – all were impeccable when I visited this beautifully situated terraced restaurant on the banks of the river in Ubud. Spend some time here in this relaxing spot, it’s the ideal place if you’re alone just to sit and contemplate. This delightful concoction does come off their dessert menu but I’m sure you could get it any time of day – they’re obliging like that.

So delicate.

9. Agios Nikolaos, Crete – The seating area for this café was across the road from the café itself. Yes, ACROSS THE ROAD. Half of the fun was watching the waiters skillfully dodge the cars and scooters, plates in hand, as they delivered the food to us. The blue of the sky was reflected in the harbor while the luxury yachts jostled against fishing boats and I indulged in a creamy, ice-creamy, chocolaty, banana split – heaven.

Heaven by the harbour.

Told you he had to cross the road!

And there’s the view!

 

10. Rome – We were staying only paces from the Trevi Fountain , the most amazing position for a holiday apartment. This meant that we only had to step outside our front door and we had our pick of places to eat. This place was about ten metres to our left. So much Tiramisu …..

Up at the crack of dawn for a photo without the crowds.

My ‘To Don’t’ List!

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always had a ‘To Don’t’ list, that is, a list of places that I don’t/didn’t want to visit. The list was never written down but it was one of those things that if someone said, how about going to xxx I’d say something along the lines of ‘oooh no, I’ve never really wanted to go there.’ In most cases my reasons, if I could even come up with any, have proved unfounded.

So, hopefully without offending anyone and with apologies in advance to the residents of these places, most of which I’ve changed my mind about completely, this WAS my ‘To Don’t’ list.

  • Bali – friends and relatives have been going to Bali since the 1970s when tourism was very young there. It’s not a place I ever wanted to go. I didn’t like the idea of less than hygienic conditions, ‘foreign’ food or the crowds of youngsters on cheap holidays. Ok, I was wrong, I admit it. I finally made my first visit there between Christmas and New Year two years ago. My cousin’s travelling companion had backed out almost at the last minute and she gave me 15 minutes to decide if I wanted to take her place. I did.  Three weeks later I was having a brilliant time and within six months I was back there again – says it all I guess.

  • India – this one is almost impossible to explain. Not why I didn’t want to go but why I am going (well, Nepal is near enough to India and much the same reasons for not wanting to go apply). I’ve always watched travel shows and The Amazing Race and thought ‘no way’. This is simply not my type of holiday. The apparent dirt and squalor and lack of sanitation, the smell, the chaos and the crowds are/were not for me. But then out jumped the trekking opportunity. Now, I know that once I get on the trek we’ll be heading up into cleaner air and less crowded places but I’m also very aware that the villages we’ll pass through are likely to challenge me and that Kathmandu will provide me with a case of ‘here, cope with this.’ I’m going with an open mind and a very different attitude to any that I’ve previously had and I’m hoping that my pristine mind will allow me to understand and appreciate the cultural differences that I’ll encounter. Don’t forget if you want to encourage me on this mad adventure head to the ‘Donate’ button up the top there and sponsor me. You’ll be helping out a very worthwhile cause.
  • America – I’ve never had any desire to go there, don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those places I’ve never had the urge to visit and the big American cities still hold no attraction for me. But, I’ve been following some blogs of Americans lately and the photos I’ve seen on their pages of their local areas, the countryside, the mountains, the scenery, it looks awesome and these people are gradually changing my ideas about the country.
  • Cairns – It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go there, it was more a case of I’d rather have gone somewhere else. I was outnumbered though and am so pleased I was. We had a brilliant holiday, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, which is as blue as the pictures you see, taking underwater photos and doing a 4 wheel adventure tour to the Daintree Rainforest. I’d love to go back there one day just for a relaxing break in a secluded rainforest resort. Hmmmm….
  • The far North West of my home state – Too hot, too dry, too isolated. So why did I enter the radio competition offering a trip to Kunnunurra? Long story short and all that, I actually won it. What a holiday that was! Fishing for Barramundi on the Ord River while crocodiles lazily watched our progress from the nearby banks, staying in tented cabins at the El Questro Gorge Resort, flying over the Bungle Bungles in an open sided helicopter, hiking into Cathedral Gorge. The whole thing was spectacular and if you ever get the opportunity don’t pass it up.

The Ord River

So much for my ‘To Don’t’ list, I no longer have one, not even a mental one. Do you, or did you? What places are or were on it?

Top Ten Tuesday -10 Cakey Delights (aka – cafes with yummy cakes!) (1)

This Top 10 comes with photos – it just has to, self explanatory really. It’s my mission, as I see it, on holidays to research cafes, as a public service for those who don’t have the time. You can go to any one of these places and be assured of a cakey delight every time.

As I’m planning & writing this post it’s threatening to become far too long, as I enthuse over the cafes and cakes on offer and the photos necessary to prove the point and make you drool. So, I’m splitting it in to 2 parts – part one today, part two for you to look forward to next Tuesday. I mean, you shouldn’t have too much cake in one week, should you?

So, in no particular order – except maybe the first one, here’s my recommendations.

1. Station House Tea Rooms, Holmsley, UK – This is in the beautiful New Forest in the south of England and is my absolute #1 place for scones – in the world! A big statement I know but you cannot go past them. They are baked on site, they are huge and the strawberry jam and clotted cream that comes with them cannot be bettered.

2. Poppi Red, Hawkeshead, UK – a beautiful shop in the Lake District that combines gift shopping with a small cafe. The cakes, including a scrumptious Victoria Sponge, are all home-made and in the summer you can enjoy a Pimms with strawberries while seated at the pretty wrought iron tables and chairs on the outdoor patio.

Poppi Red’s cakey delights

3. Corfe Castle Tea Rooms, UK– nestled below the ruins of the 11th century castle built by William the Conqueror, the National Trust’s 18th century tea rooms have an awe inspiring view from their gardens. It’s a busy place, very busy in the summer, but the staff remain unflustered and the scones are yummy.

4. Soda Sun Lounge, North Beach, Western Australia – A local favourite of mine and I do believe I’ve mentioned it before. It’s the first place I had churros and now I’m hooked. They come with hot chocolate sauce and a scoop of ice-cream. Yuuuum! The view over the Indian Ocean is excellent too.

5. Hopetoun Tearooms, the Block Arcade, Melbourne – Established in 1891 these tea rooms are a Melbourne must. I had them planned in to my itinerary when I visited Melbourne earlier this year. But, as I stood outside gazing at the amazing array of sweet things temptingly displayed in their window, my mind went into cakey overload.

Decisions, decisions. The service here was absolutely impeccable. This is what I finally opted for.

6. The Convent, Daylsford, Victoria – the mist was hanging low and the temperature somewhere around ‘damn cold’ when I visited this renovated 19th century Convent earlier this year, but what a place. The café is just part of this lovingly restored building that includes a gallery, accommodation, function venue and much more. We were there for lunch but did manage to sneak in some dessert.