‘Warra warra wai‘ is written on the footpath, just south of the spot where Captain Cook first set foot on Aboriginal soil in 1770.
It means ‘Go away.’
How humbling to stand here 242 years later.
I went for a drive up to the Blue Mountains today and on the way home I noticed a signpost near the small town of Glenbrook pointing to an historical attraction called Lennox Bridge. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a detour and see what it was all about.
Turns out it was the first stone bridge ever built in Australia, and the oldest bridge on the mainland still in existence today!
Designed by David Lennox in 1832, it was constructed by convicts and completed the following year, crossing over Brookside Creek, and providing a link between what is now the western-Sydney township of Emu Plains and Glenbrook. It stood part of the main western route for 93 years before the highway was diverted, and its operation continued until the 1950’s when the bridge was closed due to damage caused by over a century of stress from increasingly-heavy vehicular use.
It was eventually restored and opened again for traffic in 1982. Today it can be accessed via the Mitchells Pass tourist drive, and I’m glad I took the turnoff and had the chance to witness this incredible piece of Aussie architecture:
Last weekend, the day before I was due to leave Brisbane for the drive home to Sydney, I went on the XXXX Brewery Tour at the famous Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Milton. I’m not too much of a beer drinker to be honest, but I am fascinated by large industrial workplaces. It’s one of the many touristy things I’ve always wanted to do while I actually lived locally, but never got around to doing.
I chose the “Brewery, Beer and BBQ” tour. After we’d finished the walkthrough of the premises we were all treated to four beers at the bar and a freshly cooked barbecue.
I’d gone on the tour alone, and out of the group of about 20, there was another guy who had also come along by himself. He ended up sitting with me for the barbecue and we got talking. You know when you meet someone who inspires you and makes you think to yourself, wow, what an awesome person this is?! He fell into that category.
His name was Alan.
He was from LA. Supported the Lakers.
Initially I thought he was in his early/mid 50’s. It turned out he was 67.
He’d been a school teacher for the past 30 years and had only recently retired.
He travelled through Australia back in 1996, and was now on a return trip 15 years later, retracing his steps to see if much had changed, and visiting some of the country that he didn’t get to see last time.
His trip was going to culminate in December in New Zealand, where he’d booked tickets to U2 in Auckland. He’d already seen them about eight times in the past.
Over his lifetime he’d set foot in 104 countries.
He refuses to stay in a hotel, and has only ever opted for accommodation in youth hostels. That way he gets to meet people.
All his friends back at home think he’s crazy.
He lives to travel, and has no plans to slow down any time soon.
We spend about an hour drinking our complementary ale and chatting about all kinds of things, from beer to travelling to iPhones to Lady Gaga. He was such a cool & friendly guy who was genuinely happy to be alive, with the world at his hands, and living life to the maximum capacity. There is no way at all that he had the mindframe of a 67 year old – he was as youthful and full of zest as any one of his past students would have been the day they graduated from high school at 17 years of age.
If I could be half as active and happy as Alan when I’m his age, I would consider my life a success. He proved to me that there is no such thing as growing old, if you don’t want there to be.
A couple of evenings ago I went to the Toowong Cemetery, the largest burial grounds here in this fine city of Brisbane, with the intention of taking a few photos and admiring the sunset from a unique location. Rumoured to be haunted, the cemetery is situated on 200 acres by the side of Mt Coot-tha, and much of it is positioned on a slant overlooking the city skyline. I have wanted to take evening photos here ever since I first set foot in Brisbane in 2005, and it’s taken me five years to return and fulfil the dream.
I’ve copied below some of the better snaps that I took; you can click on them to make them bigger if you like.
Along the way, I will also share two slightly eerie occurrences that I experienced…
*cue high-pitched theramin noise* 😉
It was around about this time in the proceedings that the first strange thing occurred.
I had my camera in manual mode, and I’d set the aperture to f/7.1. I took a few photos and moved on a few metres down the path.
I went to take another photo but I realised before I pressed the shutter that the aperture had somehow changed itself to f/13. I didn’t think anything into it, and just reset it back to f/7.1.
I took another couple of photos at this setting and moved on again.
I found another spot not far down the path and went to take another photo, but once more, the aperture had changed to f/13.
There is NO WAY that the camera could have done this automatically while it was in manual mode, and it’s impossible for me to have changed it by accidentally knocking something, as it requires the press of a button and the flicking of a dial at the same time to alter the aperture setting…
I stood in thoughtful silence for a minute and made the connection between strange electronic things happening and me being in a cemetery. Perhaps someone or something was trying to alert me to the fact that I wasn’t alone?
It didn’t happen again.
By this time it was quite dark, around 7pm, and I decided to call it a night and go home. Before I did though, I found a monumental cross-shaped gravestone that I thought would look superb in a photo over the night-time sky, with one small lone star shining through in the background. I set my camera on the tripod and took four photos of this gravestone, occasionally altering the settings and experimenting with the flash in the hope that one of the images would turn out ok.
I noticed nothing at all out of the ordinary while I was taking these shots, and it wasn’t until the next day when I looked through them that I found something quite interesting in the fourth and final picture of the set.
The first three of the four photos are below:
As you can see, they all look much the same, except I didn’t use the flash in the second one. For the camera buffs out there, these were all taken at 7:06 pm, at f/8 with a shutter speed of 10 seconds.
For the fourth shot, I increased the shutter speed to 20 seconds to see if it would improve the quality of light.
At 7:07 pm, I took this photo:
What the hell is this??
Here are some things to consider:
I had full view of the gravestone and the heavens while the camera was in action and noticed no other light, flash or reflection appear in the sky. My first sight of this was when I got home and checked the photos.
There were no planes or other such flying objects in this part of the sky – and if there was, it would have left a 20 second streak across the photo from left to right.
When looking at the four photos consecutively you can see the star in the lower-left corner progressively moving downwards in the shot with the rotation of the earth. The strange light, however, appears to have more of a left-right motion, if “motion” is in fact the correct word.
Aside from resizing, I haven’t Photoshopped or touched up any of these four photos.
I’m not saying that it “is” or “isn’t” the presence of a ghost or spirit, but it certainly is an interesting thought…
You be the judge!
If you enjoyed reading this, then perhaps you’ll also enjoy reading about my other ghostly experience in Scotland in March 2009: The Haunted Wiccan Stone Circle (Auld Reekie Edinburgh Ghost Tour)
For the past few weeks I’ve been up visiting my home territory of north Queensland, holidaying around the place and showing the sights to my dear friend, Jess from London. My lovely mother bestowed a gift upon me in the form of a digital SLR camera, so I thought that throughout our travels – just for something different – I’d keep a photo journal of all the interesting toilet-related paraphernalia that we came across. This idea was inspired by another one of my London friends, Rhiannon, who appreciates a good dunny when she sees one
And so I begin my journal in the small township of Tully, about half way between my home in Bluewater and the tropical city of Cairns, where I would meet up with Jess. Tully is known for being one of the wettest towns in Australia, and an eight metre statue of a gumboot was erected at the entrance to the town to signify their highest annual rainfall. It’s also the UFO capital of Australia, with more sightings occurring here than anywhere else.
I stopped at the public toilets located just behind some picturesque gardens on the main street of town, Butler St. I was particularly impressed with the art deco tiling and the dislodged floor tile by the wall:
A few days later we made a stop at Granite Gorge, about 15km west of Mareeba. Here we went for a bushwalk around the spectacularly scenic gorge, taking in the giant volcanic boulders protruding from the earth, a waterhole full of turtles and a crystal clear stream flowing down over the rocks and into the scrub. The highlight was the opportunity to feed the many tame rock wallabies that called this place their home – as many as three at a time would come right up to our hands and eat the feed pellets we were offering them.
The amenities at the privately owned Granite Gorge were very photogenic, and I loved the cute little frog painted onto the base of the urinal:
Later in the day on the way back to Cairns we made a detour down a dirt road just south-east of Mareeba to Emerald Creek Falls, a pristine and seemingly not-too-well-known natural attraction. We walked for half an hour down a deserted bush track, eventually arriving at a lookout where the track officially came to an end, offering superb views of the falls. Being the adventurous types, we continued on past the lookout, through the bush, until we reached the top of the falls and had a swim in the icy-cold waterhole.
The facilities at Emerald Creek Falls would be the first of many drop-toilets that we encountered throughout our travels:
A few days later we passed by a suburb of Cairns with the laughable name of Yorkey’s Knob. Jess climbed a tree, we walked down the beach, and I snapped away at the mural outside the men’s:
I’ve crossed the crocodile-infested Daintree River a number of times in the past but never before had I been to Daintree Village, so we opted to stop there for a quick look around before continuing further up north toward Cape Tribulation. “Village” is the correct terminology for this place; it definitely had a quaint country-town feel, and we enjoyed a coffee at one of the local cafés before I discovered the amusing crocodile banners adorning the outside walls of the local lavatories:
We arrived at Cape Tribulation that evening after spending the day discovering some amazing secluded beaches, walking through the dense rainforest, eating tropical fruit ice cream (jackfruit, wattle seed, soursop and raspberry all in the one cup… yum!), and quietly stalking a small family of cassowaries in the bush to the side of the road. The following day we went jungle surfing, where they harness you up to a flying fox and you swing through the canopy of the forest from platform to platform.
We camped the night at PK’s Jungle Village, who had put a very impressive effort into the tropical mural embellishing the entrance to their outhouse:
Venturing back down south, this time via the inland road, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a camping ground near Mt Molloy. The facilities here were unique in that a donation box was positioned outside both the ladies and the gents, with signs on the toilet walls requesting that we leave a few quid. Some smart-arse (ha, what a pun!) left a suggestion on the sign saying that we should perhaps leave a different type of donation…
We camped the next night along the shores of Lake Tinaroo. First we pulled into the Platypus Rock camping area where I found this large, earthly, redbrick toilet cubicle:
We opted instead to stay at the local scouting campground, which turned out for the best as I was lucky enough to find the one and only toilet through our whole two weeks of travel where I was greeted by a little spidery visitor!
We stopped at the tableland village of Yungaburra the next day and had a delightful lunch at the historic Whistle Stop Café. You can’t get much more Aussie than this:
At an elevation of 930m, Ravenshoe holds the title of being the highest town in Queensland. We had a drink at the Tully Falls Hotel (the highest pub in Queensland), and I was hoping to find some kind of enlightening Godly message inscribed in the toilet walls, seeing as we were so close to the Royal Throne of Heaven itself. Alas, for I was barely able to make out something along the lines of “better guard your ass,” and “stiffy.” :-/
By far the most exquisite toilet block we found was within the grounds of the gorgeous Paronella Park, one of my all-time favourite tourist attractions (so far) in the whole world. Dating from the 1930’s and built by hard working Spanish cane farmer José Paronella, he thoughtfully positioned the restrooms just downstream from the magnificent castle and delicate garden that he constructed for his beloved wife. He even framed the dunny block so that views of the Mena Creek waterfall could be enjoyed whilst whizzing away.
Unfortunately the toilets are no longer in use today, however you can only imagine how exhilarating it would have been to make use of the gravy bowl back in the day:
A couple of days later after visiting Paluma with my brother Jay and his girlfriend Kate, we had a quick look through the quiet riverside township of Rollingstone. Jay and Kate’s eager eyes spotted this happy fellow, Bushy at the Beach, painted on the rear of the local toilet block:
We drove to Charters Towers with my parents, which was once the second-largest city in Queensland during the gold rush of the late-1800’s. These days it’s a quiet town with restored 19th century architecture giving it a very country & western feel, and we headed up to the lookout on Towers Hill to view the streets from above. I especially loved the panorama from the small screen window inside the men’s room:
Ravenswood is another humble mining town, substantially smaller than Charters Towers, and about 100km to the east. With a population of less than 200, you could almost say it was a ghost town, were it not for the spattering of locals who work at the nearby open cut mine, and at the various tourist attractions around the township. We had a beer at the Railway Hotel where I discovered the WC, complete with a handwritten request to “please pull the leaver slowly”:
To my great delight, the final of my Toilets of North Queensland, just down the road from the pub at Ravenswood, turned out to be the penultimate of all pissers! What more could I ask for but a genuine outdoor thunderbox alongside an old miner’s cottage built in the 1800’s? Carefully restored after a cyclone in 1989, the thunderbox proved to be an historic and shitting… err, I mean, fitting… end to this journey, which I sincerely hope you have all enjoyed sharing with me:
Oh, alright then! Because you asked nicely, here are some normal snaps I took along the way of non-toilet-related subjects such as wallabies and waterfalls!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked the lav’s!
This morning, for the second morning in a row, I rose from my slumber unusually early. Yesterday it was 2:45am for the ANZAC day dawn service, but today’s wake-up alarm was a slightly more reasonable 5:45am. Laugh at me all you will, my friends, but I had all intentions of heading on down to Circular Quay along with 5,000 screaming teenage girls in order to catch the Justin Bieber gig that Sunrise was putting on.
Just before I was due to leave home though, I heeded to the fact that the riot police had cancelled the event due to the overly raucous crowd refusing to abide by safety announcements, resulting in a number of tween girls getting crushed. I was quite disappointed – not at the ironic hilarity that fans had flown across the country for this moment only to screw it up for themselves – but because I genuinely did want to see him perform. I’d heard so much about him via Twitter and wanted to see for myself what the hype was about.
Which left me in a debacle as to what to do with my day seeing as it was so early and I was already wide awake. So I randomly decided to hop on the next train to Newcastle!
The first thing that struck me was the painfully slow three & a half hour train journey just to travel 160km. If I was still living in London I could have passed through three whole countries in that time, for heavens sake! A lot of the scenery was pretty spectacular though, especially around the Hawkesbury River area, so I couldn’t really complain.
Approaching the city though, the train line ran past the ugly rears of run-down, graffitied old shops & buildings, and my first impression as the locomotive pulled into my destination was as follows:
That really is what I thought. I was now beginning to understand why Daniel Johns’ music is so out there – clearly, growing up in Newcastle makes artists go crazy.
Following a minuscule and overpriced breakfast at a waterfront cafe, I felt like I’d not only wasted a good sleep-in, but written off a whole bloody day! Still, I thought I’d make the most of my time there and at least walk around the city for an hour or so and take some photos.
Thankfully, my dim impression of Newcastle was soon to change 😀
It turned out to be a gorgeous little town. I climbed the 40m tall Queens Wharf observation tower, then made my way down the Hunter Street mall, discovering some amazing buildings from the earlier part of last century, before making a detour to a beach nearby the famous Ocean Baths. I continued along toward Nobbys Head and journeyed up the breakwater, discovering some inspirational and heartfelt graffiti written on the rocks along the way. I returned back through the local funfair, and finally climbed the hill to the very impressive Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.
On the train bound for home I overheard something really cute and so typically Australian. We passed through the Novocastrian suburb of Cardiff, and an old man sitting across from me said to his wife, “Do you know where they get the name Cardiff from? It’s actually a small town all the way over in Wales which is a part of England!”
I now take back what I initially said about the unofficial capital of the Hunter region. You’d think I would have learnt by now after so much travel, but it just went to reinforce the fact that it does pay to break outside the walls of your immediate surroundings when you first arrive at a destination.
So thanks to the Bieber Brigade and their crowd-crushing, warning-ignoring ways which led them to ruin their own and everybody else’s fun, I was able to make the delightful discovery today that Newcastle is definitely not a hole!
PS. and unlike Rihanna, who inspired a previous blog about my travels in Rome, I really don’t mind this Justin Bieber kid at all 🙂
In June 2008 I packed my bags and moved from Brisbane to the UK to follow my heart and be with a girl I’d fallen desperately in love with. As amazing as the experience was, unfortunately it didn’t work out, and we inevitably went our separate ways. This is a poem I wrote that expresses what we would have done, if I’d had the opportunity to take her back to my home country and show her some of the breathtaking sights that Australia has to offer:
If romance beckoned, like we sensed with our predestination
If real life offered passion, bliss and fun
If love we’d birthed, across the Earth I’d take you on vacation
If only… this is what we would have done:
We’d spend the day at Byron Bay, the soaring house aglow
We’d walk for miles in the springtime sun
Astoundingly across the sea, the dolphins stage a show
If only… this is what we would have done
The paradisal stretch upon where surfers bear their joy
Percussive skins with bells like beating drums
Synchronic and eurhythmic like a golden girl to boy
If only… this is what we would have done
Stranded on a summer night, the bay of roses bound
The rock is cold, the sweetness pads our tongues
Traverse a thrill atop the hill, above precinctual sounds
If only… this is what we would have done
Amidst the virgin bush we trek, we grace the stream alone
The tree above proclaiming us as one
The water blue, just me and you, a place to call our home
If only… this is what we would have done
Further north we venture now, the tropic impulse starts
Inspires humid zeal within our lungs
The forest green, the beach pristine, adjoining like our hearts
If only… this is what we would have done
The culmination of our time spent in this sacred land
Encompasses a safe, yet stirring plunge
We reach beneath the coral reef, elation, hand in hand
If only… this is what we would have done
So we’d leave behind the frosty vales, the frigid, foggy nights
A source of temperate union we’d become
Living, loving, in Australia, IF I WEREN’T SUCH A FUCKING FAILURE
If only… that was not what I’d become
If only… this is what we would have done.
© 2008 Daniel Schaumann
I was thinking back on past times the other day when out of the blue a memory came back to me of a coincidental occurance that happened a few years ago, which I had long forgotten about. So I thought I’d share it here in my blog, seeing as I have a habit of talking about coincidences.
Back in grade 12 during one of the school holidays our family went for a trip out to Alice Springs / Uluru. Stayed a few days there and saw all the sights, but instead of going straight back home we decided to keep driving down and make an impromptu visit to Adelaide to see the rellies.
I remember on the morning we drove out of Uluru, we stopped at a petrol station which was literally in the middle of nowhere – it was on the main highway that goes straight down the Northern Territory, but it was in the dead heart of the outback, miles away from any kind of civilisation. So we stopped to fill up the car and grabbed a quick feed at the cafe, sitting outside to eat our meal.
A decent amount of tourists pulled up at the petrol station during our time there, but in particular, there was a minibus that grabbed my attention. It was full of what looked like 16-17 year old students from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds on an excursion to the outback, and I remember seeing this one guy walk out of the bus and start dribbling a soccer ball, while his friends watched and marvelled at his ball-handling skills. I wasn’t sure what it was, but there was definitely something about him that kept me watching and got me thinking…
We ate out meal and continued on our drive down south, and I didn’t think any more of my encounter with the soccer player at the petrol station.
Back at school a few weeks later in our music class, we were discussing what what we did and where we went on our holidays, and of course I mentioned our trip to the NT to see Ayers Rock. On hearing this, one of the guys in the class also said that he went to Ayers Rock too, so we got chatting and it turns out he went there with a group of exchange students – because he was an an exchange student himself, from Brazil. And then it clicked… “Do you remember being at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere dribbling a soccer ball?”
He remembered – and he proceeded to describe to me the exact same petrol station, at the exact same time of day.
It most definitley proved to me that it’s a small world.
On a deeper level though – I did think to myself at the time, ‘that guy kinda looks like the exchange student from school,’ but the chances of that being the case were way too low to warrant me wanting to go up up to him and say hi. So I didn’t. But if I had, the experience of coincidence would have been taken to a whole new level because we both would have physically partaken in it, rather than merely relate to it at a later date. Which leads me to conclude that if an opportunity exists for you to take but you’re unsure of what the outcome might be – you’re best to just follow your instincts and take the chance regardless.