Welcome to Elwyn's blog!
This contains a selection of my writing and photos from a number of trips I've made around the world.
The English South West Coast Path is a 630 mile walk from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. One of my favourite day walks on the South West Coast Path is from Mount Edgcumbe to Rame Head in Cornwall.
The start of the walk at Mount Edgcumbe is easily reached by the Cremyll Ferry which runs the short trip across the Tamar River from Plymouth. The walk continues through the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe, through a deer park and then through forest. There are good views across to Plymouth and the harbour from the deer park.
It's about 5.5km to the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. There are a few pubs and cafes which are open year-round.
From Kingsand, the walk extends through further forest up to Penlee Point. It's a clear view trees of the English Channel to the south and across to Rame Head. It's a few more kilometres to Rame Head where there are views right along the south coast on a clear day.
Return the same way from Rame Head to Cremyll which will probably take a couple of hours' walk. Enjoy a well-earned icecream or pint on the shorefront while you wait for the Cremyll ferry to provide transport back across the Tamar River to Plymouth.
The total distance from Cremyll to Rame Head and back is about 20km which means the walk will take around 4 hours to complete. Allow time for stopping for views and pubs!
About a year ago, I arrived back in Perth after 9 years in the UK. It's taken a while to adjust back to the Australian way of life.
SunsetSunset in a big sky, just after we set up camp. We camped for a couple of nights in the wheatbelt, about 200km east of Perth. Just after we arrived, we were treated to an amazing sunset.
Sunset over our campsite Then we awaited the lunar eclipse. Even though it was a relatively clear sky, a single storm cloud appeared on the horizon right where the moon was due to rise. We were fortunate to see the start of the lunar eclipse and a single flash of lightning. Then the cloud cleared just in time for the total lunar eclipse when the moon turned red.
Storm cloud over the lunar eclipse We spent some time exploring the area which had a number of "monolith" rocks. They are a single rock, similar to but not as big as Ayers Rock. Climbing up offered a great view of the surrounding country.
After a couple of nights' camping, we drove back to Perth. It started to rain on the way home so it was perfect timing with the weather!
The Rottnest Swim is a 20km open water swim which starts at Cottesloe Beach and finishes at Rottnest Island. It has now grown to be so popular that there's a ballot to enter a team in the race. Our sailing crew managed to win the ballot to enter the race so we all helped out as support crew.
The standard Perth summer weather conditions are an offshore easterly wind overnight and into the morning before an onshore seabreeze later in the day. Therefore, it's best to start swimming west to Rottnest Island with the offshore breeze as a tailwind and get as far west to Rottnest as possible before the seabreeze comes in. The start time for our swim team was 7.15am but we needed to be on the boat at 4am to motor up to the start line and get organised.
The support team needs a boat to provide safety and recovery for the swimmer(s) and navigate the course over to Rottnest Island. A kayaker paddles very close to the swimmer to guide the swimmer along the correct course as it's very difficult to see any distance when swimming.
My support crew role was kayaking so I stepped off the back of the yacht into the kayak to meet our swimmer at Cottesloe for the start. Our swimmer was Scottish so naturally I was given a Scottish flag to help identify me amongst hundreds of other kayakers and support boats.
Our swimmer started and we found each other relatively quickly thanks to the Scottish flag! The first 1km of the swim was relatively straightforward as no support boats were allowed in the swim channel. But after that it was chaos with boats, kayaks and swimmers everywhere. So I did my best to protect our swim team. Even at the start, it was a steady southeasterly wind that soon became a southerly crosswind so we knew we were in for a difficult crossing.
The swim team of four swimmers took turns to swim 10 minutes each at a time and rotated through resting and recovering on the support boat. We continued west, before the wind died out. But it wasn't long before the seabreeze started and we were battling to make the cutoff time for the 10km mark. We just made the mark, but with choppy seas and a headwind the writing was on the wall that we'd need to retire. It was unfortunate, but there wasn't much we could do about it.
We decided to retire from the race and pull the swimmers and support craft into the yacht. Then it was time for the Rottnest pub! It's easily one of the busiest days of the year at Rottnest so we soaked up the atmosphere and had a good chat over a few beers. Perhaps we'll enter a team again and hopefully have better conditions next time.
Lake Ballard is a 50km long salt lake 200km up the road from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Lake Ballard has Antony Gormley’s 51 Carbonised Steel Figures which were initially installed as a temporary art exhibition but proved so popular they are now a permanent fixture.
A real sense of the expanse of the outback. Flies and dust are mandatory!
I spent a week in Sydney. I was fortunate to see a good friend of mine and we arranged an overnight walk in the Blue Mountains. I last visited the Blue Mountains when I was a teenager (ie. a long time ago!) so it was time for another visit.
The weather was dicey earlier in the week with snow falling in the area but fortunately it cleared up on the weekend. I'd had a 6 hour delay arriving into Sydney due to severe thunderstorms!
We drove up to Blackheath which was about 2 hours from the middle of Sydney and commenced our walk at Evans Lookout. As it was an overnight walk we needed to carry everything so we had a fair weight in our packs. Walks in the Blue Mountains start high from the car park, and then descent down to the valley floor to spend the night before climbing out of the valley to finish.
Evans Lookout offered a great view to the north of Blackheath and we could clearly see our planned route.
From Evans Lookout we descended down to the base of Grand Canyon, a side valley leading down to Junction Rock. The terrain and the flora changed quickly as we descended through various ecosystems. We descended past of a number of waterfalls as the terrain became steeper near the valley floor.
We then walked through Eucalyptus forest along the river to Junction Rock, where we turned north to head towards the blue gum forest. We had glimpses to the distinctive cliffs lining the top of the valleys around us.
We set up camp at Acacia Flat and then had a short walk to the Blue Gum Forest in the evening light.
We enjoyed a cool night before packing up camp and heading back up the valley the next morning. We remembered that we had to climb back out of the valley after the relatively easy descent the day before! We turned right at Junction Rock and climbed up towards Bridal Veil Falls. As the temperature was around 30 degrees it was a warm climb but fortunately there was plenty of shade. It was an impressive path that became steeper until we were climbing stairs up the cliff face.
The view across the valley and Bridal Veil Falls made the climb worthwhile!
We finished the climb up to Govetts Leap and then crossed the top of Bridal Veil Falls before the finish back at Evans Lookout. Then a well-earned ice cream.
It was a great weekend and a reminder that I should visit the Blue Mountains more often!
We anchored our yacht at Rockingham Beach, south of Fremantle. As we took the dinghy to shore, we had this close encounter with a dolphin!
Pune is a city of over 5 million people which is makes it the 8th most populous city in India, behind Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. It's in the same state of Maharashtra as Mumbai on the central western coast. As Pune is on a less travelled route to India from Australia, it took 3 flights and over 20 hours in transit to get there from our home in Perth. The newly built airport in Delhi made the transit much easier than the old airport that I went through on previous visits to India in 2007 and 2004.
It's no surprise how crowded it is on Indian streets. There are literally people everywhere. It's now quite visible that some of the population are better off since the Indian economic boom as there's more cars on the road. That said, there are also lots of "two wheelers" or motorbikes on the roads there who battle for the front at red traffic lights. Fortunately we had drivers assigned to take us everywhere for our stay so we didn't have to deal with driving on India roads. A different style of driving means that's generally friendly to use your car horn to let other drivers know you're there. Many trucks have "Please use horn" painted on their back bumper bars. That makes the streets of India very noisy. Not to mention the frequent cows and other animals frequently seen on the roads!
Most of our week was spent at the office which only offered evenings to look around the city. The Osho International Meditation Resort is based in Koregaon Park. It was started by Acharya Rajneesh in the 1970s which attracted many Westerners to visit India and many have stayed in the meditation resort for a number of years.
Not far from Osho is the German Bakery. As we had several Germans in our group, we had to visit the bakery. Unfortunately, this bakery was bombed in 2010. Since this bombing, there is increased security around Pune. Upon entering any shopping centre, reasonable hotel, office or tourist site visitors must go through security, get frisked and have bags x-rayed. As I'm about a foot taller than most Indian ladies, my head was often sticking out above the security screen as I was frisked by female security staff.
India has become much more westernised in the past decade. There are plenty more shopping malls and recognisable western brands (and rip-offs) available for sale. But there's also millions of people living in extreme poverty on the streets. The "Land of Contrasts" label is obvious everywhere. Besides flashy cars are children begging at traffic lights hoping to buy their next meal.
We made a day trip to Lavasa, a hill station built between Mumbai and Pune in 2010. It was nice to get out of the big city of Pune and see some of the surrounding country. We passed through a couple of valleys of the "Western Ghats", a hill range which extends along the west coast of India. Lavasa is planned as a totally self-sufficient town but it's still under construction. It surrounds a dam which offers views across the valley. Fortunately there was a reasonable restaurant for a suitable lunch stop.
As it was August, it was monsoon season. Most days had a huge rain downpour in the afternoon and we drove back from the office through some deep, muddy puddles. This made the surrounding land look very lush and green. Our hotel overlooked the river which ranged in height from barely trickling to a large torrent following downpours in Pune and the hills upstream.
Ganesh Chaturthi, the Hindu "Festival of Ganesh" was celebrated after we left. It's a week-long festival where statues of Ganesh are erected around India and worshipped. The celebrations are particularly long in Maharashtra. We didn't want to get stuck in the impending traffic jams for the festival so we departed back to Perth the day before the festival started. I'm sure we'll be back to visit Pune soon.
The Avon Descent is a two day kayak and powerboat whitewater event on the Avon River and Swan River near Perth in Western Australia. It starts in Northam and finishes just east of the city of Perth. The most spectacular day of the event is on the second day when most of the rapids are tackled.
We went to Bells Rapids to watch the action. Bells Rapids are the last whitewater obstacle before 30km of flatwater before the finish line in Bayswater. Our timing was perfect as the leading kayakers came through the rapids around 15 minutes after we arrived and around three hours after their early morning start. The leading paddlers made the rapids look easy.
As more paddlers attempted the rapids, there were more capsizes. The Avon Descent support crew did a great job of helping people out when required and everyone we saw made it on to the flatwater and the long paddle to the finish.
One pair of kayaks managed to get their rudders tangled across the rapids which blocked the river for other competitors. Fortunately the rescue crew managed to untangle their rudders and both competitors continued down the river.
The powercraft started to come down the rapids but fortunately most of the paddlers had finished the rapids.
We then drove down to the finish at Bayswater to see the finish line. The competitors enjoyed perfect weather and the high river level.
Plenty more photos are in the photo gallery at http://elly.net.au/avon-descent-2014 and in the slideshow below. Enjoy!
I spent most of June in Melbourne for my new job. Fortunately there was time for some sightseeing too. I'd travelled through Melbourne airport on a number of occasions before but hadn't actually seen much of Melbourne itself.
As Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, naturally I had to attend some sports events.
The National Sports Museum is part of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I had enough time before the football game at the MCG to have a look in the museum. It has a large number of significant sports memorabilia which I was amazed to see in such a small area. The Australian Cricket Hall of Fame is also held here.
The Fremantle Dockers had travelled from Western Australia to play the Richmond Tigers at the MCG. If you don't recognise those names, you probably aren't familiar with Australian Rules Football. The Australian Football League originated in Victoria so there are many suburbs of Melbourne with their own AFL clubs. For example, Richmond, Carlton, Essendon, Footscray and Collingwood.
The Fremantle vs Richmond game was a good one since the Dockers managed a win. By a fluke my ticket was at the right end of the ground amongst the Dockers supporters which made it easier. The MCG can hold almost 100,000 people so it seemed relatively empty with a crowd of about 25,000.
Etihad Stadium was next on my sports agenda to watch the Wallabies vs France rugby game. Etihad Stadium is much newer than the MCG and has a well designed layout so all spectators have a good view of the whole ground. There were a surprising number of French supporters. The game itself was quite boring, only a 6-0 scoreline and no tries. Still, it was good to visit the ground.
We visited a rooftop bar to have a view across the city after the rugby and soak up some Saturday night atmosphere.
Melbourne is also famous for its art. I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the "Italian Masterpieces" exhibition. Many pieces on display hadn't been seen outside of Europe before.
I had a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens. These are well-kept gardens have some relatively fresh air and peace in the middle of the city.
I had a look at the South Wharf, past the Crown Casino. There were plenty of factory outlet shops but I restrained myself and didn't buy too much :-)
More photos of Melbourne are available in the photo gallery.