Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Dog sees the Rooster off

2005………………… 2006

Christmas sort of got away from us last year, so I decided that as New Year came too soon after Christmas (still not enough time to get a letter organised) the last chance was Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is quite significant in Darwin as a result of our local Chinese history going back to the goldrush days of the late 1800’s when many came as goldiggers and stayed as merchants. Many 4th and 5th generation Chinese look physically Chinese but are real Aussies.

We have also had a new addition to the family last year, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy (well she was when she arrived) whom we have called Mazoe. She arrived in July and immediately set about trying to win the heart of our very old and quite frail Ridgeback cross Shumbah. After a couple of days she learnt some fundamental lessons of how to be friendly to a cranky old dog! Shumbah has since died and now Mazoe has taken over the responsibilities of keeping Peter in line. They have regular long conversations, some quite philosophical but others quite heated, particularly when Mazoe decides to eat something that Peter feels was not meant to be edible. She is, however, developing into a lovely animal and at 8 months old weighs about 30kg and stands about 70cm high.
During the last year we have done a number of small trips, mostly a week here and there but quite interesting. Starting in January Peter had a very quick trip to Curtin Airforce Base near Derby in Western Australia for work and I went along for the ride. The weather was really hot; up to 46˚ and very humid as well. Quite trying and even airconditioning was not coping too well with those conditions. We had a chance to have a tiny look around Broome early in the morning before we flew home, just a taste to decide we would like to return, but when the weather was a bit more pleasant – in the Dry season. To the left is a picture of a monument, in the main street of Broome, to the early pearl divers who were an important industry in the area.
At the end of March we headed north to Singapore for 6 days and then took an interesting bus ride to Melacca in Malaysia. We though the bus trip (local bus) would take about 3 hours and 6 hours later we arrived in Melacca. We visited every roadside stop and petrol station between Singapore and Melacca and saw about 20 trillion Oil Palms, both sides of the bus, all the way! The bus was also the local courier service. Melacca is a beautiful place, so much history; I think every country that had a boat and someone to sail it has had some input into Melacca’s history and architecture, Portugese, Dutch, English as well as Chinese and other “locals.” I could fill a page with information and photos but then you would have no urge to go there so I shall put just a few. The yellow building is the beautifully restored Puri Hotel – a 200 year old home of a Peranakan merchant– it must have been state of the art when it was built! We decided to stay there after seeing a picture of it in a Malaysian tourist brochure a couple of years ago in Singapore. We searched for it on the web and were surprised to find that it even had free wireless broadband internet connection for guests to use their own laptops and a small internet room for those who didn’t. It seemed quite an enigma to be sitting in a hotel with such a history and be using the latest computer technology. Even in technology elite Singapore not too many hotels have wireless broadband and if they do they have sure worked out how to charge for it! The picture on the right is taken in the foyer of the Puri. The buildings are beautiful and tiny thumbnails really don’t do them justice. The red building is the one you may have seen in a tourist brochure – the Christ Church – built by the Dutch in 1753, to celebrate the centenary of their occupation of Melaka. It was originally a Dutch Reform Church but was later consecrated as an Anglican Church. We had dinner at the restaurant at which Sean Connery met his “handler” in Entrapment and cruised down the river to see the scene of the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers (superimposed) from the riverside slum in the same movie. Much of the movie was filmed in Melaka, not KL as viewers were led to believe. Another feature of the architecture in Melaka is many beautifully carved and often colourfully painted doors and windows. I think there could be a coffee table book published of them – there has probably already been several! The only downside of the time there was that the weather was as hot and humid as it can be in Darwin in November. That made getting around a little more difficult, as it was much more pleasant, during the middle of the day, to sit in the shady courtyard of the hotel and read and keep up the fluids, or even worse, curl up in the airconditioning! After Melaka we then travelled on to KL by bus, a lot quicker trip than the previous one and had a very brief look around the city. We were very lucky to manage a trip up the Petronas Towers. Even the trip in the lift is impressive – 46 floors in 46 seconds or thereabouts anyway. The tour is to the 41st floor bridge (there are two bridges but for security, tourists can only visit one, tenants use the other). The building is quite spectacular, stainless steel and glass and the view from it is very good. The atmosphere was reasonably clear when we were there so we could see quite well. Our intention was to return to KL in August for a longer visit, but the fires in Indonesia had caused such smokey conditions and people were being advised to stay indoors. We decided that, as tourists, if we couldn’t see anything and had to stay in our hotel it wasn’t much point going. We will return there soon as we would like to see more of the city and surrounds. We travelled around on the monorail while we were there as it is fairly quick, avoids the city traffic and had a station quite close to our hotel. The train systems are quite good but as far as we could work out, none of the systems “talk” to each other, resulting in needing to buy separate tickets if you need to change trains for a trip of any distance and no system to buy stored value or day tickets as you can in other places. Probably OK if you are a local and know the fares and the routes, but a little more difficult if you are unfamiliar with the place. We came back to Singapore on the overnight sleeper train leaving KL at 10pm and arriving in Singapore at 8am. We quite enjoyed the train trip and the sleeper carriage was quite comfortable for the massive outlay of about A$30. We had two more days in Singapore shopping, taking in the local food and then home and back to work.
During May we had a young visitor from Sweden. We took her to Kakadu National Park and crocodile cruising, where she got to feed a croc, and have her photo taken and was awarded a certificate which was a different souvenir to take home! She then spent 6 weeks working on a cattle station about 900km southeast of Darwin. That was quite an eye opener for her and she really enjoyed it. Carolina’s older sister, while she was in Brisbane studying, had met the daughter of the station owner and the opportunity arose that way. She has taken back many memories and photos of her experience! The photo shows Carolina paddling on a crocodile free billabong.
In early May we travelled to Newcastle to visit Peter’s brother who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease in 2004. We were also able to catch up with Paul in Sydney, friends on the Central Coast and then on to Brisbane for a brief trip to the Sunshine Coast and visit with Patrick and Rebecca.
In June we flew to Kununurra for Peter to head bush and do an erosion survey for the extension of the Ord River irrigation scheme. Much bush bashing and walking in tall grass was undertaken, but the weather was glorious, the time seemed to fly and the work got done. To the right you see a scientist at work – no it is not what you think, he is reading the GPS after lunch by the Keep River, just over the border back into the NT. I hadn’t been to Kununurra since 1973 when I was pregnant with Kerstin so a few things had changed in that time; like they have opened up tourist access to the dam, greened the town and you wouldn’t camp on the diversion dam wall like we did in 1973! We even had a beautiful meal at a restaurant that would stand up anywhere – Stars of the Kimberly is the name if you are ever there, and I hope the chef is still there and performing as well as the meals we had! Quite a surprise for a town of 10 000 people. Quite good art available too, particularly local indigenous art. We were able to make a quick trip out to Lake Argyle and it is quite spectacular. Completed in 1972, it covers 740 sq km! The spillway wall was raised 6 metres in 1996, almost doubling its capacity, it contains 12 times the water of Sydney Harbour. Boating is allowed above and below the spillway, with boat trips available from below the spillway back into Kununurra. I would have liked to been able to do that trip but time did not allow it as we had to catch a plane back to Darwin.
At the end of July we headed north again, firstly to Singapore and then on by boat to the Indonesian island of Bintan for a few days of relaxation, book reading, snorkelling and resting by the pool. We then travelled back to Singapore. At this stage we were to go back to KL but the weather was not obliging so we stayed in Singapore, did day trips to Malaysia and ate lots of local food. Peter has tried for 30 years to get me to eat Indian food and it has taken until the last couple of years for me to be convinced; and now I’m hooked, but still on the reasonably mild version. Singapore has fantastic local food of many types and really cheaply priced. We also visited the 1421 exhibition of Chinese naval adventurers. Very interesting and puts a different view on the story we were taught about the European sailing adventurers.
The “buildup” to the Wet season this year seemed particularly trying, with the temperatures remaining higher than normal, particularly overnight (rarely below 27˚C), less breeze than we would like and of course the constant humidity. I was looking for any chance to escape to somewhere with drier weather and cooler nights!
November saw Peter off to a conference in Toowoomba and I grabbed my hat and bag and went too. We had a couple of days on the Gold Coast relaxing, then the conference and back to Brisbane for the weekend with Patrick and Rebecca and a quick visit to the Sunshine Coast. On the Gold Coast we managed to get a lovely room with about 300˚ view north, south, beach and hinterland and even a “loo with a view” south and to the hinterland! In Toowoomba the Spring flowers had retired gracefully from many of the gardens but the jacaranda trees were in spectacular bloom and I just couldn’t resist some photos of them. The picture to the right shows, in the background, the new (under construction) tallest building on the Gold Coast – Q1 – the world’s tallest residential tower – as it says on it’s web site “set amidst one hectare of tropical landscaped grounds, lagoons, waterfalls and resort facilities. This unique building with 80 levels of luxury living will be an internationally recognised landmark destination.” A bit too tall for me I think but I guess they will get takers for at least enough of their 527 apartments and 1 penthouse! In Brisbane, we dined by the river, travelled on the River Cat and visited Southbank. You will see a picture of Patrick, Rebecca and Peter reluctantly posing beside the river.
November also saw us have a quick trip to Adelaide, for Peter to attend a Plant Variety Rights workshop and look at sewerage ponds. He does involve himself in interesting things, but the wetlands associated with the ponds at Mt Barker are very well presented, with lots of wildlife and many people enjoying the walks and bike paths the day we were there. They had to drag me away from the waterbirds before I overheated the camera. Well worth a visit if you get the chance. We were able to spend the weekend catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for quite a while and enjoying the splendid improvements made to their garden at their “farmhouse” which is only 5 years old and was a cow paddock before they started. From the house you can look out over the paddocks, right down the valley. The weekend there was so quiet and scenic, I didn’t want to leave! But we did and after a couple of more days in the city, while Peter worked and I undertook some retail therapy with a friend we returned to tropical weather. At least by then the storm rains had started and the weather was a lot more pleasant. Late on Christmas Eve we had quite a severe storm come through, short and sharp with winds up to 120km/h, stripping leaves off the trees in its path and bringing down three trees in our yard and the neighbours yards on either side. It just happened that the neighbours were both away and so Peter got to be the good neighbour and clean up the mess. He got to buy a new boy toy, a chain saw, so that he could cut up the trees and move them.
The monsoon arrived mid January and with it came quite strong winds that have kept things relatively cooler between the rain storms. It has also whipped up the waves along the beaches near us and all the normally packed away surfboards and boogy boards were bought out to catch the surf. Waves are not something we often see in Darwin, usually only when there is a cyclone imminent.
Back to the Chinese New Year celebrations. It is traditional for the lion to visit the shops and businesses of those of Chinese descent at Chinese New Year to bring good luck for the coming year and to collect their Red Packets. For those who aren’t familiar with Chinese tradition, a red packet is a monetary gift given on a special occasion, in a red envelope. They are also the standard form in which cash for political bribes is given. The
red color of the packet symbolizes good luck and the amount of money in the packet is often some lucky number (such as a number containing many eights, which sounds similar to the Chinese term for "prosperity"). In Chinese society, the monetary value of the gift is very important and gifts of red envelopes are socially acceptable precisely because they allow the receiver to accurately measure the strength of a social relationship. One of the lion “dancers” works in our office and I was able to get some photos taken this year of the lion dancing and then catching his red packet in his mouth.


Anonymous said...

I like it; pity about the photos though

Anonymous said...

How did I fall across this site?
Great to read the news Roni, when the interest in cycling? - Jack Haslam