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Just Me Travel

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HOW TO SEE HORIZONTAL FALLS AND EPIC TIDES, AUSTRALIA

Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari   Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer…

Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari

 

Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour covers several bucket list activities in the Kimberley region. Be prepared for a scenic flight over the Horizontal Waterfalls and the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago, a visit to a hatchery managed by the Bardi-Jawi people, a pearling industry discovery tour and a fast boat cruise amongst giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves in the world’s largest tropical tides. So, where am I taking you? Read on to discover and learn more about your next Australian adventure.

 

Over the past 12 months, I have tried twice to join a tour over and through Horizontal Falls in Western Australia. However, on both occasions, the company cancelled the tour. The first cancellation in 2021 was because the seaplanes could not take off due to low cloud cover. The second cancellation (June 2022) occurred when a fast boat had an accident going through the Horizontal Waterfalls, and all fast boat tours through the falls were temporarily suspended.

When I recently found myself in Broome again, and my second-attempted pre-booked Horizontal Falls tour was cancelled, I was resigned to my disappointment. However, one day nosing around the resort lobby, I came across an Air Kimberley brochure. I discovered they did a similar full-day tour that included a flyover of the Horizontal Falls and a sea safari, not through Horizontal Falls, as I had wanted, but out to the giant tides off the Kimberley coast.

The Air Kimberley tour cost, at $985.00, was slightly less than what I was to be refunded from the cancelled tour. I figured, what did I have to lose? And I wasn’t returning to Broome for a third attempt at the Horizontal Falls tour.

Air Kimberley’s tour price covered hotel transfers, flights, morning tea and lunch, and third-party tours at Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery and Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

So, what did I find in that Air Kimberley brochure? Before I answer that question, you probably wonder why seeing Horizontal Falls was so important to me.

Last year, when organising my first ever trip to the Kimberley in northern Western Australia, Horizontal Falls was on my must-see list for several reasons.

  • Sir David Attenborough has described the falls as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”, and I thought I needed to see this unique natural attraction that deserved such high praise.
  • The Horizontal Falls are created by a rare ocean phenomenon where powerful, fast-moving 10- to 12-metre-high tidal currents squeeze through two narrow gorges at an astonishing rate, producing waterfalls turned on their side (literally, horizontal). I love waterfalls but have only seen ones with vertical drops. So, I knew I had to see this wonder for myself.
  • Horizontal Falls is in the Buccaneer Archipelago, an untouched region of more than 1,000 islands off the coast of Western Australia. These largely uninhabited islands are known for their rugged terrain, areas of rainforest, and pristine, white sand beaches – a landscape I was keen to photograph from the air even though it would seriously test my camera skills.
  • Horizontal Falls is remote, accessible only by air or boat. I find ‘remote’ appealing – the more difficult it is to get to see or do something, the more I want to go.
  • And lastly, seeing Horizontal Falls came highly recommended by friends and Facebook groups.

Did my flight over Horizontal Falls meet all my expectations? You will have to read on to find out.

Cygnet Bay Explorer

And now, back to my question about what I found in the Air Kimberley brochure.

I found, booked, and went on Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour, leaving from Broome.

“Enjoy an adventure packed day experiencing the best of the Kimberley – Overfly the Horizontal Falls, Buccaneer Archipelago, visit Ardyaloon Community and the giant tides and shimmering pearls at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.”

While you can check out the details of this tour for yourself by clicking on the link, there were two very different events I was eager to experience – the scenic flight over Horizontal Falls and the sea safari out to the giant whirlpools. But I am getting ahead of myself. What did the tour entail?

I was picked up from my accommodation at 6.30 am and driven to Broome International Airport, where Air Kimberley is based. Four other people (two couples) joined me on the tour. After our flight safety briefing, we boarded a small aircraft (eight-seater, including the pilot) for the 2-hour flight up the Kimberley coast for our flight over the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago and Horizontal Falls.

The Buccaneer Archipelago is a group of 1,000 small islands covering 50 square kilometres, located at the head of King Sound near the Kimberley town of Derby.

The archipelago is a magnificent raw landscape that you can only truly appreciate from the air. While boat tours around the islands offer visits to the beautiful coves and beaches, you would not get the perspective given by a scenic flight of the vastness of all those islands that seem to go on forever.

I must admit, I was underwhelmed with Horizontal Falls. I had read so much about the power of the tides running between the cliffs, causing the water to appear like a horizontal waterfall, but ‘power’ was not evident from the plane. Instead, what I saw was more like Class 1 or 2 rapids.

I suspect the wonder of Horizontal Falls and the power of the tides are best experienced from a fast boat through the waterfalls rather than a scenic flyover.

When we landed at the Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery & Aquaculture Centre, run by the Bardi-Jawi people on One Arm Point, I asked the pilot if we were not allowed to fly lower over Horizontal Falls. I thought lower would give a better ‘feel’ for the powerful tides. Apparently, there is a height pecking order, with helicopters flying at the lowest altitude, seaplanes next level up, and light aircraft (our plane) flying the highest.

When I got home and reviewed my photos more closely, I felt the image below revealed the power of the running tide more clearly than my eyes could discern. What do you think?

Close up aerial view of a horizontal waterfall

Can you ‘feel’ the power of the Horizontal Falls in this photo?

 

I had joined a guided tour of Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery on a previous visit to Broome in 2021. However, on this occasion, morning tea of fruit salad, cake, and juice was provided by Air Kimberley.

From Long Arm Point, it was a short, six-minute flight to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, where the activities included the Pearl Discovery Tour and a Sea Safari. At Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, Air Kimberley’s involvement was limited to getting us to the pearl farm, seeing we joined the Pearl Discovery Tour, paying for lunch, ensuring we were on the fast boat for the Sea Safari, and flying us back to Broome.

Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer tour price included the tours at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

Pearl Farm Discovery Tour

My previous visit to Broome in 2021 included the Pearl Farm Discovery Tour at the family-owned Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. However, I continue to be fascinated by the history of pearling in the Kimberley.

Reading tip: If you are interested in learning more about a significant chapter in the Kimberley’s pearling industry, I recommend reading The White Divers of Broome by John Bailey, telling the true story of a fatal experiment.

The tour commenced with an information session on the history of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and the pearling industry in what appropriately appeared to be an old school classroom. A live pearl harvest followed the history lesson.

A pearl in an opened oyster

I took this photo of the harvested pearl on my previous visit to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

 

The tour concluded with an in-depth session on how pearls are graded.

The Pearl Farm Discovery tour was followed by lunch at the onsite restaurant.

Twice I lunched at the Cygnet Bay Homestead Restaurant with a tour group when the set menu was seafood. On both occasions, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm was advised of my seafood allergy, and, on both occasions, this information seems to have been lost in translation. The outcome was eating a meal after everyone else had finished because they had nothing prepared for me. I found the restaurant’s forgetfulness disappointing.

Sea Safari

After lunch, we climbed aboard the fast boat for our Giant Tides Sea Safari. During this cruise, we would “feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides with giant whirlpools and standing waves” created by millions of tonnes of water squeezing between the rocky islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm writes about their Sea Safari tour:

“Feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides as you cruise amongst the giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves. Venture into Escape Passage, recently described by scientists as the fastest ocean currents in the world!

The tides on this section of the Kimberley Coast are particularly large due to the area’s geography. When the sun and moon align on a spring tide, the ocean is pulled towards the north-west of WA and Indonesia, gathering speed as it reaches the shallow continental shelf and bottlenecking as it passes between Australia and Indonesia, creating the exhilarating whirlpools and standing waves we see on the tour.”

My photos can’t express the sense of adventure experienced and don’t do justice to all you see. The whirlpools are probably best viewed from the air.

The Sea Safari was an experience I find difficult to describe as there just don’t seem to be the right words to express how I felt as we powered through the whirlpools and standing waves created by the forceful tides. But let me try. It was a thrilling, exhilarating, exciting, fun, and awesome adventure. To best sum up my feelings, I was disappointed when it was time to return to land. I immediately wanted to go back out again, but there was a plane waiting for me to take me back to Broome.

Beware: You will get wet. How much so will depend on where you are sitting in the boat. Two young girls sitting at the front of the boat got drenched. I was sitting at the back of the boat directly in front of the driver and experienced what I would best describe as several large, fat rain drops.

The flight along the Kimberley coast back to Broome took us over the magnificent red cliffs of James Price Point, famous for its 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (but that’s another trip).

Aerial view of red cliffs meeting sand and sea. Forest lies behind the red cliffs.

Scenic flight with Air Kimberley over James Price Point

 

It was a long (approximately 11 hours), enjoyable, satisfying, and exhilarating day providing several unique experiences and so worth it. I can not fault Air Kimberley’s relaxed professionalism, guiding, and communication.

The tour was an excellent itinerary, well organised, kept on time without feeling rushed, and value for money. Without hesitation, I recommend Air Kimberley to readers.

Before our transfer back to our respective hotels, Air Kimberley presented each passenger with special gifts as mementos of our Kimberley adventure – a tour photo, a souvenir Passport & Tour Map to the Kimberley, an Air Kimberley stubby cooler, and a complimentary beer voucher from Matso’s Brewery in Broome. I am not letting out any secrets here, as Air Kimberley lists the gifts on their website.

 

In this post, I have shared my experience of Air Kimberley’s full-day Cygnet Bay Explorer tour up the Kimberley coast over the Horizontal Falls and 1,000-islands Buccaneer Archipelago and onward to a fantastic sea safari adventure in the world’s largest tropical tides. It was a chance meeting with a brochure that brought me to Air Kimberley – one that was to my benefit and yours.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Does Horizontal Falls deserve Sir David Attenborough’s description of “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”?

 

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The image has two photos of aerial views of a horizontal waterfall and red cliffs meeting sand and sea.

 

An image with two photos. One is an aerial view of horizontal waterfalls and the other is a whirlpool in the sea.

 

Are you looking for more ideas on destination Western Australia? Then don’t miss these posts:

23 GREAT PHOTO SPOTS ON THE ROAD FROM PERTH TO BROOME, AUSTRALIA

7 TOP DAY TRIPS AND THINGS TO DO IN AND FROM PERTH, AUSTRALIA

15 PHOTOS TO INSPIRE YOU TO VISIT BROOME, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

SEE 7 BEAUTIFUL GORGES IN THE KIMBERLEY – the ultimate guide

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 6 SAFE SWIMMING HOLES IN THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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7 TOP DAY TRIPS AND THINGS TO DO IN AND FROM PERTH, AUSTRALIA

A visit to Perth, Australia, is a Journey of Discovery of Unique Things to Do.   Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, with Adelaide, the nearest…

A visit to Perth, Australia, is a Journey of Discovery of Unique Things to Do.

 

Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, with Adelaide, the nearest city, 2,104 kilometres away. Perhaps its isolation is part of its appeal. It certainly hasn’t limited what Perth has to offer the visitor for things to do in Perth and day trips from Perth – all unique to this beautiful city sitting on the Swan River. Discover, explore, and enjoy the world’s largest city park, the happiest animal on earth, a massive wave-shaped rock in the middle of nowhere, the largest dam mural in the world, one of the world’s biggest musical instruments, and more.

 

Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, is Australia’s fourth largest city by population. With a population of just over two million, Perth is small enough to feel personal; visiting the city feels like visiting family. I felt I was immersing myself in a community rather than losing myself in an urban jungle. Perth’s ranking as the sixth most liveable city in the world in 2021 was well deserved.

Perth enjoys more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital city – reason enough to visit. Other reasons why you should visit Perth are:

  • It has a laid-back, relaxed, and welcoming vibe.
  • Being mostly flat, it is easy to walk around.
  • It is a spacious city where you don’t feel hemmed in.
  • As a solo traveller, I always felt safe.
  • Swim in the sapphire blue ocean and lay on beautiful white sand beaches.

My first and lasting impression of Perth is a city of green space, public sculptures, and beautiful architecture.

I stayed ten days in Perth in May 2022. The day trip destinations and things to do suggested in this post are from my own experience as a solo traveller to Perth. Read on to discover seven top day trips and things to do in and from Perth or jump straight to a specific activity.

Take a Perth and Fremantle city tour

When I visit a city I haven’t been to, I like to take an escorted city tour. Whether by foot or bus, a city tour is an excellent way to orientate to the city and check out the places I would like to revisit in more detail.

On my first full day in Perth, I took the Half Day Morning Perth and Fremantle City Explorer with Australian Pinnacle Tours. The drive around the city took us past the famous Western Australian Cricket Ground (WACA) and Optus Stadium. I was particularly taken with the architecture of Matagarup Bridge crossing the Swan River from East Perth to Optus Stadium and knew I would be back to photograph the bridge.

The tour also took in a drive through the more affluent area of Perth known as Millionaire’s Row, past Cottesloe Beach on the Indian Ocean, and the University of Western Australia. However, the highlights for me were the 45-minute stop at Kings Park and the one hour we had to explore Fremantle.

I couldn’t get enough of the spectacular river and city views at Kings Park and knew I would be back for more.

A picture of a view of city buildings on the shore of a river and with shrubs in the foreground

View of Perth City and the Swan River from Kings Park

 

While there, I found the meeting place for free guided walks in the park, operating daily at 10 am and 1.00 pm. I gathered more information at the Visitor Information Centre in the park and put the walk on my ‘must do’ list for another day.

After leaving Kings Park, we headed to the port city of Fremantle. With an hour to explore, I couldn’t resist the historic Fremantle Markets, especially as, by now, I was hungry. The markets have been operating in this heritage-listed building for over 100 years. Focused on food, I found plenty of culturally diverse options for lunch, but I was drawn to the colourful displays rendered by the fruit and vegetable stalls.

People buying and selling fruit and vegetables laid out in stalls

Fruit and vegetable stalls in Fremantle Markets

 

I particularly liked this tour because it wasn’t just driving around Perth and Fremantle, but we left the bus for a decent amount of time at strategic points of interest.

While I saw much more of Perth throughout my ten-day stay, I didn’t do Fremantle justice, only visiting again after this tour to catch the ferry to Rottnest Island and to have lunch with friends I met on the APT Kimberley tour last year. I would have liked to explore the port city in more depth, which is only half an hour from Perth by train and take a tour of the prison. With an area known as ‘Cappuccino Street’, it would seem Fremantle has a better coffee culture than Perth – definitely worth discovering.

Photograph a massive mural on a dam wall

A painting of several people on a dam wall

The magnificent Wellington Dam mural by Guido van Helton

 

When I first saw photos of Guido van Helton’s mural on Wellington Dam on Facebook over 12 months ago, I knew that if I ever got to Perth, I would have to see it for myself, and I wasn’t disappointed. Magnificent! The artwork is one impressive mural, and Guido is one of my favourite artists. [Check out his painted silos at Brim in Victoria and Portland in New South Wales.]

The mural covering 8,000 square metres of the Wellington Dam wall is the largest dam mural in the world. The mural took Guido van Helton, an internationally renowned Australian artist, four months to complete (in February 2021), with Guido camping in the bush for the duration. As with Guido’s silo artworks, local stories, and photographs inspired the Wellington Dam mural. Titled “Reflections”, the mural features images of two migrant workers who worked on the dam build, kids playing in the sand, Aboriginal children playing in the water and a boy with a fish, a dad with two kids, and, finally, an Aboriginal couple.

Wellington Dam is in Wellington National Park, just west of the town of Collie, about two hours from Perth. Rather than hire a car, I took a day trip to Wellington Dam with Australian Pinnacle Tours. The tour included morning tea at Harvey Cheese with a cheese-making demonstration, Wellington Dam, a two-course lunch at Dardanup Tavern (which was delicious), a wine tasting at St. Aidan winery, and a stop at Gnomesville before returning to Perth.

We spent over an hour at Wellington Dam, where I could view and photograph the mural from the specifically installed lookout and walk down to the dam’s base for more photographs.

A painting of children and a man on a dam wall

A section of the Wellington Dam mural by Guido van Helton

 

A painting of children on a dam wall

A section of the Wellington Dam mural by Guido van Helton

 

About Gnomesville

A photo of hundreds of garden gnomes on the ground and in the trees

A small section of Gnomesville

 

Gnomesville has to be seen to be believed. At the roundabout where Wellington Mill Road and Ferguson Road converge (about a 15 minutes drive from Dardanup) and extending along a creek and into the bush, you will find thousands of garden gnomes – over 10,000 at the last count. Legend has it that the first gnome was placed at the site in the 1990s.

Myths surround the creation of Gnomesville – that a single garden gnome appeared at the site and others followed suit or that the workers working on the roundabout created a Gnome Cricket Game and others joined in. The latter seems more fascicle than the former. However, according to the tour bus driver, the story of the creation of Gnomesville goes something like this:

A lady phoned a Perth radio station to say she had many gnomes she wanted to give to a good home, but no one wanted them. Other people then phoned in to say they had the same problem. A farmer, hearing about this, donated land for a home for the gnomes. And people have been leaving gnomes ever since. However Gnomesville started, a tourist attraction was born.

Most of the people on the bus tour had brought a gnome to leave at Gnomesville. I hadn’t, as I knew nothing about Gnomesville and obviously didn’t read the tour itinerary information to be curious enough to learn about it beforehand.

When I told my sister about Gnomesville, she thought it was great fun. Me? I found it bizarre and a bit tacky. Let me know what you think.

Walk over Matagarup Bridge

A black and white steel arched suspension bridge with a stadium behind it

Matagarup Bridge with Optus Stadium in the background

 

On the Perth city tour, I took a liking to the architectural style of Matagarup Bridge and wanted a closer look. So, catching the Blue and then the Red CAT buses (see ‘Getting around Perth’ below for more information), I made my way to Matagarup Bridge on the East Perth side of the Swan River.

Matagarup Bridge (completed in 2018) is a suspension, pedestrian-only bridge crossing over the Swan River from East Perth to Optus Stadium on the Burswood Peninsula. The arches are said to represent a pair of flying black and white swans, with the bridge arches representing the wishbones, a swimming dolphin, or the Wagyl, a water serpent of significant importance to the local Noongar culture – symbolising a coming together of diverse cultures.

Symbolism aside, Matagarup Bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. You be the judge.

An information panel in the middle of the bridge provides building statistics and information on the design, name, lighting, and more.

A photo of a black and white arched suspension bridge

Matagarup Bridge

 

According to the Perth and Fremantle City Tour bus driver, the bridge was built to get people across the Swan River from East Perth to Optus Stadium. Now, there’s a dedication to football for you!

While I had only set out to photograph and walk across Matagarup Bridge, you can climb the bridge to an open-air viewing platform 72 metres above the river. From the viewing platform, you can ride the 400-metre-long zipline to Burswood Peninsula, reaching speeds of 75 kilometres per hour. The zipline looked like fun. If I had been with someone to share the experience with, I would not have hesitated to do it.

People on a zipline over a metal structure

Zipline from Matagarup Bridge

 

Take a free guided walk in Kings Park and Botanic Garden

A photo of a tree-lined street

Fraser Avenue, Kings Park

 

At 400 hectares, Kings Park is the world’s largest inner-city park – larger even than New York’s Central Park, which is 370 hectares. With spectacular views of Perth City and the Swan River, botanic gardens, walking and cycling paths, a tree top walkway, memorials, cafe, picnic and bar-b-que areas, children’s play area, and more, it is easy to understand why Kings Park sees over six million visitors a year.

Curved silver metal sculpture overhanging a path and surrounded on two sides by shrubs

Sculpture and mosaic at the entrance to the Western Australia Botanic Garden in Kings Park

 

The 90-minute free guided walk in the park is run by volunteers twice daily at 10.00 am and 1.00 pm and takes you through several sections of the wonderful 17-hectare Western Australia Botanic Garden, located within Kings Park.

Western Australia is home to half of Australia’s 25,000 plant species, most of which are found nowhere else on earth. The Western Australia Botanic Garden proudly showcases over 3,000 species of Western Australia’s unique flora in stunning garden displays.

While I am a terrible gardener (I can’t keep anything alive), I get a lot of enjoyment out of walking around gardens. There are interpretive signboards throughout the Botanic Garden. But I didn’t need those as my guide was a wealth of information on the numerous gardens we walked past, each dedicated to a specific region of Western Australia, thereby increasing my knowledge of Australian plants and enhancing my enjoyment.

Red flowers and pods on a red flowering gum tree

Red flowering gum endemic to Western Australia

 

The guided walk in the park included walking the 620-metre long Lotterywest Federation Walkway within the Botanic Garden – a combination of pathways, an elevated walkway in the treetops, and a glass bridge allowing uninterrupted views of the valley floor 16 metres below. The walkway’s highest point is on the glass bridge, providing a panorama of the Swan and Canning Rivers. The elevated section of the Lotterywest Federation Walkway is open daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm and is accessible by wheelchair.

A man standing on a metal bridge with glass sides that winds through the treetops

Lotterywest Federation Walkway’s glass bridge in the treetops

 

Kings Park and Western Australia Botanic Garden are free to enter and open 24 hours a day. A digital visitor map is available on the Botanic Garden and Parks Authority website. Printable versions are also available on the same website but will no longer be updated.

There are several means of getting to Kings Park:

  • Kings Park is an easy 1.5 kilometres from Perth CBD.
  • There are two options here, both free. Option 1 > Transperth Bus #935 travels from St George Terrace (Perth’s CBD) into Kings Park. This service operates every 10 minutes on weekdays and 15 minutes on weekends and is free for passengers travelling from the CBD to Kings Park. Option 2 > The Blue CAT Bus travels between Perth Busport and Kings Park via Perth Station and Elizabeth Quay Bus Station. The service is free and runs every 15 minutes. See ‘Getting around Perth’ below for more information on CAT buses.
  • Free parking is available only for park visitors. You are not allowed to park your vehicle and then leave Kings Park boundaries by any other means (on foot, by bus, or in another vehicle).

View a tsunami of a rock formation

A long rock formation with a man standing at its base that looks like an ocean wave

Wave Rock

 

At 15 metres high, Wave Rock towers over you like a tsunami ready to crash on the landscape. This extraordinary natural granite rock formation shaped like an ocean wave (but not in the ocean) was formed more than 2700 million years ago but only ‘discovered’ in the 1960s.

Wave Rock is about four kilometres from the small wheatbelt town of Hyden, but first, you must get to Hyden, which is a four-hour drive from Perth. Rather than drive myself, I decided to travel to Wave Rock in a more relaxed manner and go with Australian Pinnacle Tours on their full day Wave Rock, York, Aboriginal Culture and Seasonal Wildflowers tour.

Note: September is the best month in Western Australia to see wildflowers, and I was there at the end of June and saw no wildflowers.

Our first stop on the way to Wave Rock was in the town of York, where we had enough time for a coffee and a stroll along the main street. Situated on the Avon River and established in 1831, York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia. It is a pretty town renowned for its heritage buildings and colonial architecture lining the main street, and I couldn’t resist the old-fashioned lolly shop.

Having arrived in Hyden, we stopped at Hippos Yawn for a photo stop before lunch.

Hippos Yawn is a 12.6-metre-tall rock formation said to resemble a yawning hippopotamus. You can walk to Hippos Yawn from the Wave Rock car park on a flat, easy 1.7-kilometre return path.

A large rock that looks like a hippo yawning

Hippos Yawn

 

Australian Pinnacle Tours organised lunch at the Wildflower Shoppe Cafe in Hyden. Unfortunately, the buffet chicken and rice were disappointing.

After lunch, we visited Mulka’s Cave to view Aboriginal rock art and handprints significant to the Nyoongar people. In Mulka’s Cave’s three chambers, 452 handprints and paintings have been recorded. Legend has it that the handprints are those of Mulka the Terrible (an Aboriginal evil spirit) who was known as a murderer and cannibal and lived in the Mulka Cave. The tribe eventually killed him after he killed his mother for scolding him for eating children.

Several human handprints on a cave rock face

Aboriginal rock art (handprints) in Mulka’s Cave

 

Wave Rock is a unique and beautiful rock formation with its wave-like shape caused by the water below ground before the rock was exposed by erosion. The ‘wave’ is even more accentuated by the vertical orange, brown, yellow and grey streaks that stain the surface. The colours in Wave Rock, created by water runoff reacting with the minerals in the rock, are magnificent, and even more so when the sunlight hits the rock.

A low stone wall on top of Wave Rock was built by the Water Authority in 1951 to channel water into the Hyden Reservoir. Initially used as an emergency water supply for livestock, it became the town water supply for Hyden in the early 1960s. It is still used for this purpose but is now supplemented by a larger dam out at The Humps.

We had 60 minutes at Wave Rock which was plenty of time to walk along the 110 metres rock face and the top of the rock and to grab an ice cream at the caravan park store adjacent to Wave Rock before boarding the bus for the drive back to Perth.

A long rock formation with flora in the foreground that looks like an ocean wave

Wave Rock

 

Explore Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is a major tourist attraction with over 500,000 visitors a year and is famous for its native quokka population, said to be the happiest animal on earth. So, I thought I better see for myself what all the hype is about.

Dosed up with sea sickness tablets, I caught the train to Fremantle, from where I took the 9.00 am ferry to Rottnest Island – a 30-minute trip across the Indian Ocean.

Quokkas are native to Rottnest Island but also, less commonly, found on mainland Western Australia. They are found nowhere else on earth. They are also known as the short-tailed scrub wallaby and are about the size of a domestic cat. In my opinion, they look like a cross between a large rat and a small wallaby. I can understand why the Dutch sailors who first landed on Rottnest Island reported to their captain that the island was infested with large rats and named it Rottenest Island (“Rat’s Nest Island” in English). The ‘e’ was later dropped.

A photo of a quokka

A quokka on Rottnest Island

 

Quokkas are mainly nocturnal animals, but tourism on Rottnest Island seems to have flipped their internal clock as they were everywhere around the cafes scavenging food. And no, I did not take a selfie with a quokka – apparently, this is THE thing to do on Rottnest Island!

Rottnest Island is 11 kilometres long and 4.5 kilometres wide at its widest point. Locals describe the island as a favourite holiday destination for Western Australians because of its pristine beaches ideal for swimming, beautiful bays to explore, coral reefs and shipwrecks to snorkel around, and cycle paths (cars are not allowed on the island) and walking tracks.

A photo of a sapphire blue ocean and a beach surrounded by rocks on three sides

Fish Hook Bay, Rottnest Island

 

My visit to Rottnest Island was organised through SeaLink, taking their Rottnest Bayseeker Package. The package included the return ferry with Sealink WA and a 90-minute bus tour of the island, disembarking briefly at a couple of viewpoints around the island. With my bus tour not until 1.45 pm and arriving off the ferry at about 9.45 am, I had several hours to kill. To fill in my time between arrival and the bus tour, I checked out the shops at Thomson Bay, the island’s central hub and referred to as The Settlement, had lunch in one cafe and coffee and cake in another, went for a walk, and visited Wadjemup Museum.

Wadjemup Museum

If you want to learn about Rottnest Island’s unique and diverse history, including its dark history as a penal settlement for Aboriginal prisoners, visiting the Wadjemup Museum is a must. The museum is a delight to explore as it is laid out in easy-to-follow themes, including cultural connections, early exploration, Aboriginal incarceration, and milestones such as how the island was used as internment camps in World War l and ll and as a COVID-19 quarantine station in 2020. A theatrette, audio interactions, an interactive touchscreen for kids, and outdoor sculptures complete your museum experience.

A photo of various sculptures outside on plinths

Wadjemup Museum outdoor sculptures

 

I enjoyed looking through Wadjemup Museum, finding it thought-provoking and engaging. Should you be on Rottnest Island, I recommend visiting the museum.

The museum is in the Old Mill and Hay Store behind the Rottnest Bakery and General Store in Thomson Bay Settlement. Opening hours are 10.00 am to 3.30 pm daily. Entry to the museum is by donation.

While I liked the Wadjemup Museum experience, I was, on the whole, disappointed with my visit to Rottnest Island and, frankly, bored. At one point, I asked myself why I was there. My disappointment stemmed from too much time around Thomson Bay Settlement waiting for the bus tour and a bus tour that made too few stops around the island with minimal time at each of those stops (never a good combination for a keen photographer). In hindsight, I would have been better off taking the Rottnest Express ferry from Barrack Street Wharf over to the island and then using Rottnest Island’s Hop On / Hop Off Bus to explore the island on my own, at my pace.

Chime a massive bell in The Bell Tower

A glass tower with other buildings behind it

The iconic Bell Tower

 

The distinctive design of the towering glass spire of The Bell Tower (resulting from an architectural competition and the world’s only bell tower) has become an icon for Perth and Western Australia. The Bell Tower was custom built to house the twelve historic 18th century Bells of St Martin-in-the-Field (one of London’s most famous churches) and five specially cast bells gifted to the people of Western Australia in 1988 in commemoration of Australia’s bicentenary. The Western Australian Government commissioned a sixth new bell to mark the second millennium, making a total of 18 bells in The Bell Tower.

Eighteen cast bells with rope pull wheels

Bells of St Martin’s

 

The Bell Tower, located in Barrack Square, is one of the largest musical instruments in the world and a unique, interactive Perth tourist attraction. Open Thursday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, with the last entry at 3.45 pm. Tickets can be purchased online or directly at the Bell Tower.

A General Entry ticket gives you access to the Bell Tower’s six levels on a self-guided tour, with the opportunity to see the St Martin bells ring by the professional bell ringers if you time your visit between 12.00 pm and 1.00 pm on a Thursday or Sunday. The General Entry ticket does not include chiming the bells yourself.

Level 6 is the open-air Observation Deck, where you get stunning views of the Swan River and Perth City.

I chose the 45-minute ‘Bell Tower Experience’ tour because I wanted more than just to learn about the history of The Bell Tower and the famous royal bells. I wanted to step behind the scenes with access to the Bell Tower ringing chamber to chime the historic bells, and I have the certificate to prove I chimed a bell. I learnt that chiming a bell is not just a matter of pulling the rope, but it is about how the rope is pulled. I also discovered how hard it is to pull the rope to make a sound from the bell.

Don’t be disappointed; buy your ticket ahead of your preferred visit time.

For $35.00, couples can announce their everlasting love to the world with an engraved Love Lock and attach it to the chain fence at the entrance to The Bell Tower.

Five rows of love locks attached to chains

Chain of Love Locks at the Bell Tower

 

Australian Pinnacle Tours

You will have noticed I used Australian Pinnacle Tours on serval occasions for sightseeing trips in Perth and beyond. Their tours were well organised with appropriate timing at each stop to explore, discover and take heaps of photos, and the drivers a wealth of information. My only suggestion to Australian Pinnacle Tours is to change the lunch venue on the Wave Rock tour.

Australian Pinnacle Tours’ Perth office in Barrack Square was three doors from where I was staying. When I saw a poster in their window for a tour to Wellington Dam (a place I was eager to visit for its massive dam wall mural), which fitted in with the dated I was in Perth, I immediately went in to chat with the staff. I found the staff above and beyond helpful. Perhaps it also helps to have all your tours booked with one company? The staff rearranged my booked tours to enable me to join the Wellington Dam tour, they looked up the weather to ascertain which days would be best for which tours, and they gave me suggestions as to the best spots to take photos of the mural on the dam wall.

When Australian Pinnacle Tours cancelled my Margaret River tour due to not being able to get a driver because of COVID-19 depleting driver numbers, staff explored every possible avenue available to them to get me on the tour another day. Unfortunately, it was not to be, giving me another reason to return to Perth.

I can’t thank the Australian Pinnacle Tours staff enough for their undivided help and attention, friendliness and professionalism. I highly recommend doing business with Australian Pinnacle Tours.

Getting around Perth

In moving around Perth, I walked (Perth is easy to walk around) and used CAT buses. Transperth’s CAT (Central Area Transit) buses operate in the Perth CBD, Fremantle, and Joondalup. They are free and frequent and use a colour-coding system in each area to identify the different routes. You may get off and on them as often as you like without paying a fare.

Click HERE for CAT route maps and timetables, clicking on the PDF symbol next to the relevant timetable.

On two occasions, I needed to get to Fremantle, and I used the train at those times – a 30-minute ride from Perth Railway Station, leaving from Platform 7. Good to know when purchasing a train ticket: Fremantle is in Zone 2 from Perth. A ‘one-way’ ticket is good for one hour, and if returning more than one hour later, you must purchase a Day Pass.

Where I stayed

A photo of a large spacious hotel room with floor to ceiling windows, king bed, couch, and desk

My room for 10 days in the Doubletree by Hilton Perth Waterfront

 

While in Perth, I stayed at Doubletree by Hilton Perth Waterfront at 1 Barrack Square. I had a deluxe room with a king bed and panoramic river view. Being situated on the corner of the building on the 17th floor with large windows all around, I had fabulous views of the Swan River and Perth City.

The room was light, spacious, and comfortable, and I never tired of the views. It had everything I needed for a 9-night stay, except a microwave, and a microwave would have been useful given the length of my stay. When seeking information, I found the hotel reception staff helpful and knowledgeable.

I first visited Perth in 1981 on my way back to Namibia, where I was living at the time. It has taken me 41 years to return, and I certainly will not leave my next visit for so long as Perth has much more for me to discover, explore and enjoy.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Is Perth on your bucket list as my return is on mine?

 

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A photo of a painting of people on a dam wall plus a photo of a city with new and colonial buildings

A photo of a beach plus a photo of a bridge

 

Are you looking for more ideas on destination Western Australia? Then don’t miss these posts:

HOW TO SEE HORIZONTAL FALLS AND EPIC TIDES, AUSTRALIA

23 GREAT PHOTO SPOTS ON THE ROAD FROM PERTH TO BROOME, AUSTRALIA

15 PHOTOS TO INSPIRE YOU TO VISIT BROOME, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

SEE 7 BEAUTIFUL GORGES IN THE KIMBERLEY – the ultimate guide

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 6 SAFE SWIMMING HOLES IN THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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ENJOY A WONDERFUL HIGH TEA ON A DEDICATED YARRA RIVER CRUISE [UPDATED 2022]

Melbourne’s Best High Tea On The River.   High tea is always a special event. Combine that with a river cruise past Melbourne’s skyline, and you have something unique and…

Melbourne’s Best High Tea On The River.

 

High tea is always a special event. Combine that with a river cruise past Melbourne’s skyline, and you have something unique and truly memorable. Read on to learn where, how, and what you can experience high tea on the Yarra River.

 

I love having high tea and have indulged in a few worldwide. It always makes me feel pampered.

I love river cruises and find them incredibly relaxing. Having been on 15 cruises, I admit I am addicted to river cruises.

Bring the two together and I have an experience made in heaven.

What is high tea?

As offered by luxury hotels worldwide, high tea is, historically and traditionally, afternoon tea.

If we are going to be correct, what we call high tea – finger sandwiches, savoury and sweet pastries, cakes, and scones with jam and cream – is afternoon tea which became a tradition among the British upper class in the mid-19th century. It was a social event of a light meal of bite-sized food and never meant to replace dinner. Whereas, historically, high tea was a working-class evening meal consisting of hearty dishes of meat and vegetables served at the end of the working day.

Why do we call it high tea? Because it sounds fancier and means luxury hotels and the like that offer high tea can attract tourists.

Whether called high tea or afternoon tea, it’s all the same to me, and I will continue to seek it out wherever I travel. It’s the socialisation and food itself I seek, not the name.

A special occasion

The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day in Australia. What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to spend it with my daughter? Her choice of celebration in 2019 showed just how well she knows me. My Mother’s Day treat that year was a high tea river cruise on Melbourne’s Yarra River.

Magic Charters in Melbourne operates the high tea cruise on the Yarra River. The two-hour cruise sails from Victoria Harbour, Docklands to Williamstown, Hobson Bay (return) on selected Sundays from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm throughout the year. Check their website for details and available dates.

Boarding was done incredibly efficiently by the crew. At the gangway, we gave our booking name, were given a table number, and off we went. Our table was upstairs, and while the boat holds up to 130 people, we were not crowded, with plenty of space between tables. I had held concerns that we might be required to share a table with strangers, and I did not want to do this as I just wanted to spend the time exclusively with my daughter. But tables were set for two, three and four people, with larger groups also accommodated.

High tea was catered for inside the boat, allowing for all weather conditions. However, floor to ceiling glass walls provided uninterrupted views as we sailed the Yarra River. There was also the option to venture outside on one of the three decks.

The tables were set with white linen tablecloths and napkins, ceramic crockery, water and glasses, silver cutlery, and finished with a red rose. It all felt very posh and added to my feeling of being pampered.

Our high tea was a relaxed experience, and the crew were efficient, friendly, and attentive. We even had the option to help the captain sail the boat – a spacious catamaran.

The serving of food was well-paced throughout the cruise. Magic Charters were not stingy over the amount of food, and all that was provided was delicious.

Leaving Victoria Harbour, you cruise under Bolte Bridge and historic West Gate Bridge, passing Melbourne’s industrial area before arriving at riverside parkland and fabulous views of Melbourne’s city skyline.

City buildings with a river in the foreground and a dark, cloudy sky

Melbourne city skyline from the Yarra River under a moody sky

 

High tea menu

As soon as we were seated, we were offered sparkling white wine, which flowed throughout the cruise. Orange juice was an available alternative.

Tiered plates of hot and cold savouries were the first foods to appear on our table, consisting of finger sandwiches, rolls, pies, tarts and arancini balls.

The savoury menu was followed by tiered plates filled with warm scones, jam, and cream (plenty of cream) on the lower tier and various deserts on the top plated level. Deserts included tubs of panna cotta with raspberries, macaroons, chocolate brownies and cupcakes.

A plate of mini tarts, pies, and arancini balls.

High tea savoury menu (May 2019)

 

A plate of cupcakes, biscuits, chocolate brownies, and tubs of pan cotta with raspberries.

High tea sweet menu (May 2019)

 

Tea and coffee were on offer continuously throughout the cruise.

Magic Charters can cater to some special dietary requirements, such as gluten-free and dairy-free. It is essential to advise them of your special dietary requirements when booking.

A note on cost

Magic Charters’ two-hour high tea cruise costs $118.00 per adult. However, booking Magic Charters’ high tea cruise, High Tea On The Sea, directly through their website reduces the price to $79.00 per adult, offering value for money.

Should you have a Sunday afternoon free in Melbourne, I recommend adding the high tea river cruise with Magic Charters to your itinerary for something different to do or plan for that special event, such as a birthday or Mother’s Day. This Melbourne high tea cruise is worth the experience.

 

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Photos by Meg Speak.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. High tea or afternoon tea? If both were advertised on the same page at different venues, which would you be drawn to?

 

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A Pinterest pin with two images. One image shows a city skyline taken from a river with a dark, cloudy sky. The second image shows a variety of cakes on a plate, set on a table with a white linen tablecloth.

The image has two photos. One is of pies and tarts on a plate. The other image is of different cakes.

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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OLD BEECHWORTH GAOL GUIDED TOUR – An Authentic and Educational Step Back in Time

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.   The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way…

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.

 

The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way to explore the gaol and have history come alive. Beechworth Gaol is a time capsule that offers an authentic and educational look into the past. Visit the cells that housed notorious bushrangers, learn about convict life, and uncover some of the gaol’s darker history. Step inside and go back in time with an expert guide.

 

Beechworth is North East Victoria’s best-preserved gold rush town, leaving a legacy of colonial architecture that boasts 32 heritage-listed buildings. Old Beechworth Gaol is one of those buildings, and it is heritage-listed by the National Trust for its historical, architectural, and archeological significance to the state of Victoria.

Getting there

A short drive from Albury (45 kilometres), Beechworth is in my backyard.

For those living further afield, Beechworth is a 3-hour drive northeast of Melbourne (284 kilometres), 4 hours southwest of Canberra (391 kilometres), and about 6 hours southwest from Sydney (593 kilometres).

Don’t have a car? From Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, take a train to Wangaratta and then the bus to Beechworth on Wangaratta Coachlines.

Old Beechworth Gaol is located on the corner of Williams Street and Ford Street, Beechworth.

Tours of Old Beechworth Gaol operate daily at 11.00 am and 1.00 pm and take about one hour. You can purchase your guided tour tickets at the Old Beechworth Gaol Cafe located in the gaol wall near the main gates. Alternatively, you can book your tickets in advance online. Please check their Facebook page, The Old Beechworth Gaol, for updates on tours.

Our guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol started with a double vaccination status check. Walking through the main gates, the courtyard provided a venue for Daniel, our tour guide, to give us an overview of the history of Beechworth gaol.

  • Taking approximately six years to build, Beechworth Gaol was opened in 1864 and initially housed men and women.
  • The outer stone walls are granite.
  • The razor wire on top of the gaol’s walls replaced the original barbed wire.
  • The current iron gates replaced the original wooden gates in 1879 when there was a suspected prison outbreak.
  • Beechworth Gaol was a medium-security prison.
  • The prison has a history spanning 140 years, closing in 2004.

From the courtyard, our tour took us to the hard labour yard where male prisoners were put to work crushing granite rocks into gravel for roads and footpaths. The guards in the towers overseeing the hard labour yard worked 12-hour shifts.

A painting on a brick wall of a man in metal armour and helmet with a gun in each hand. Also painted is a man with very muscly arms and chest.

The mural in the hard labour yard painted by the inmate, Woodsie

 

Moving into the cell blocks was like entering a time capsule, where time has stood still since the prison’s closure in 2004. The feeling of being locked in time was confirmed by Daniel when he advised the cells have not been touched since 2004.

A prion cell in an old gaol with toilet, hand basin, bench, cupboard, and iron single bed.

A cell on old Beechworth Gaol – a time capsule

 

In the men’s cellblock, the gallows with the hangman’s noose was visible on death row – the top floor of the men’s cellblock. Eight men were executed in Beechworth Gaol between 1865 and 1881, and they are buried in unmarked graves in the exercise yard against the western wall.

A prison cell block with open doors to cells on the lower floor and gallows and hangman's noose on the upper floor.

The gallows and hangman’s noose on death row in the men’s cellblock

 

Daniel regaled us with stories of Ned Kelly’s misadventures (murder, assault, theft, and armed robbery) that landed him in Beechworth Gaol. Daniel was an entertaining storyteller. See below for details of who was Ned Kelly and his connection to Beechworth Gaol.

An image of four dummies wearing metal body armour and helmets

Effigies of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang

 

In the women’s cellblock, cell 10 was the designated mother’s cell with its two doors. One door (the front door) led into the cellblock, and a guard could open the back door to allow the mother to let her children outside to play. Daniel explained that the children were not prisoners but were locked up with their mother.

A prison cell with front and back doors

Cell 10 – the mother’s cell with its double doors

 

At the end of the women’s cellblock is the solitary confinement cell where a prisoner was locked in the cell 23 hours a day. The prisoner was allowed outside in a caged area for one hour a day.

A large cage within a grassed and walled area.

The prisoner solitary confinement exercise cage

 

Our final tour stop was the exercise yard, the burial site of the executed men. An empty swimming pool dominates this lawned area.

Image of a lawned area with empty swimming pool, surrounded by stone walls with razor wire and overlooked by a watch tower.

Old Beechworth Gaol and the Ned Kelly connection

Ned Kelly was Australia’s most notorious bushranger and known for wearing a suit of iron armour during his final shootout with police. He was immortalised in the 1970 Ned Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger in the title role.

For those not familiar with Australian colonial history, escaped convicts who used the bush to hide from authorities were the original bushrangers. By the 1820s, the term had evolved to refer to those who took up armed robbery as a way of life, using the bush as their base.

Ned Kelly first became intimately acquainted with the inside of Beechworth Gaol at the age of about 13. Over the ensuing years, he became more familiar with the gaol on at least two other occasions.

Daniel was a wealth of information about Ned Kelly and his time spent in Beechworth Gaol. He held our undivided attention when telling of Ned’s imprisonment for lewd behaviour and assault when he was 16 years old. According to Daniel, Ned sent a package to a lady containing a man’s testicles and later assaulted her husband. There is great truth in the story as Ned did indeed send testicles to the lady. However, depending on your resource will determine the nature of the testicles. A man’s testicles, a calf’s testicles, two calves’ testicles – believe what you will. I suspect the story has grown legs.

For the lewd behaviour and assault crimes, Ned Kelly received 6 or 8 months (once again, depending on your resource) imprisonment in Beechworth Gaol.

Time for lunch

Whether you do the old Beechworth Gaol guided tour in the morning or afternoon, you must eat in Beechworth.

You are spoiled for choice for places to eat in Beechworth. I have eaten at several places and never had a bad meal.

On the day of my old Beechworth Goal tour, I ate at the Beechworth Pantry Gourmet Delicatessen & Coffee Shop on Ford Street. I ordered the Asparagus, Leek and Cheese Quiche with apple and Pear Salad and couldn’t resist the Hazelnut Meringue with Berries and Cream. I left the cafe very satisfied and with bars of fruit nougat in hand for later enjoyment.

My final review

If you plan to visit Beechworth, do yourself a favour and take a step back in time with a guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol. The tour provides all ages with an authentic and educational experience in which local, expert guides bring a dark history to life. It is a unique experience not to be missed and highly recommended.

A corridor with numerous open blue metal doors with heavy metal bolts on the doors. Two set of stairs are in the middle of the corridor.

The female cellblock in old Beechworth gaol

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. The only other prison tour I have taken was to Alcatraz when I was visiting San Francisco. Where have you taken a prison tour?

 

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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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OUIDAH VOODOO FESTIVAL IN BENIN – a joyous celebration with 13 photos to inspire [2021 UPDATED]

An Annual Celebration Not to Be Missed is Benin’s Voodoo Festival in Ouidah   Picture colour, music, singing, dancing, and a joyous party attracting national and international visitors. This is…

An Annual Celebration Not to Be Missed is Benin’s Voodoo Festival in Ouidah

 

Picture colour, music, singing, dancing, and a joyous party attracting national and international visitors. This is not Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or Venice. Add religion and culture, and you have Benin’s Voodoo Festival in Ouidah. With 13 photos to inspire your curiosity, wanderlust, and travel plans, join me in my experience of Benin’s Voodoo Day national celebration.

 

Voodoo Day in Benin falls on January 10 each year. It is a national holiday celebrating the country’s heritage of the West African religion of Voodoo.

Benin (officially the Republic of Benin) is a sliver of a nation in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Ouidah is a city on Benin’s narrow strip of coastline and was the ancient port of the slave trade.

An image of a map of West Africa

Map of West Africa

 

Attending Benin’s Voodoo Festival in Ouidah was my primary reason for travelling to West Africa.

Voodoo is one of Benin’s official religions, while Ouidah is considered the birthplace of Voodoo. It is probably one of the most misunderstood religions in the world. West African Voodoo is a complex religion rooted in healing and doing good to others. It is not the stuff of Hollywood – of witchcraft and black magic or sticking pins in dolls.

I must admit it was curiosity that fed my travel plans to include the Voodoo Festival in Ouidah. I wanted to witness this annual celebration of Benin’s heritage and traditional culture and to experience a unique festival.

My participation at the Voodoo Festival commenced with a visit to Ouidah’s Temple of Pythons – one of Voodoo’s most revered places and home to some 60 pythons. The pythons are a significant symbol for followers of Voodoo. They are not feared but are revered and worshipped. These pythons were said to be docile, which was just as well because they roamed freely. It was here, through a break in the trampling crowd, that I momentarily sighted the Voodoo Pope who had come to pay homage at the Temple of Pythons.

a group of women dressed in multi-coloured clothing and each wearing many bead necklaces.

Female Voodoo devotees at the Temple of Pythons

 

From the Temple of Pythons, the Voodoo Pope led a procession along the historical, 3-kilometre Slave Road to the ‘Door of No Return’ (of slave trade infamy) on Ouidah’s beach on the Atlantic coast. It was on this stretch of sand that the celebrations of the Voodoo Festival truly got underway.

And what a celebration!

With the dignitaries’ speeches over (this took over an hour), it was party time. But first, the spirits and Voodoo gods needed to be appeased with the sacrifice of a goat. The Voodoo Pope carried out this ritual behind a circular wall of blue plastic away from public view. Animal sacrifice is a fundamental element in Voodoo. No Voodoo ceremony is worth its salt without an animal sacrifice in exchange for favours from the spirits.

Immediately following the sacrifice, the Voodoo Pope made his way to his throne in the shadow of the Door of No Return. I say ‘throne’ because the festival hosts referred to him as “His Majesty the Pope”.

A seated group of men and women dressed in multi-coloured clothing.

The Voodoo Pope (in blue robes) on his throne

 

With the Voodoo Pope seated, the atmosphere changed. The speeches gave way to vibrant displays of dancing and the throbbing of drums. I witnessed ‘exorcisms’ in which a seemingly possessed person would run away from a group of people, only to be caught, dragged to the ground, and sprinkled with powder. The crowd became particularly excited when coloured haystacks appeared, spinning around the grounds. I learned these ‘haystacks’ are Voodoo spirits known as Zangbeto and are the traditional Voodoo guardians of the night – the Nightwatchmen. They are the unofficial police force and dispensers of justice. I did not envy the human police who battled to keep the crowds from encroaching on dancers and Voodoo spirits.

With so much going on around me, I wandered around aimlessly. I didn’t know which group to stay and watch or where to go next. But I was intent on seeing it all. I moved around the festival for a couple of hours until I decided it was time to sit down and people watch.

Overall, the celebration at the Voodoo Festival in Ouidah was a hive of activity in which people would swarm from one dance display to another. A kaleidoscope of colour from the attire worn by attendees and a cacophony of noise from the frantic pounding of drums dominated the festival. The crowd was buzzing.

But perhaps, the best way to describe the Voodoo Festival and my experience is to share some of my photos with you.

 

Ouidah’s Voodoo Festival was a never to be forgotten experience.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright © of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

Which festival have you attended that has been a ‘never to be forgotten experience’ for you? Tell us about it. Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

 

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Related posts

For more posts on Africa, visit Just Me Travel: https://justme.travel/category/destinations/africa/

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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3 OF THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN ROCHESTER, VICTORIA [2021 UPDATED]

Visit Rochester Victoria – 3 Excellent Reasons to Plan Your Next Great Escape   Are you looking for a day trip or overnight stay in rural Victoria? On the Campaspe…

Visit Rochester Victoria – 3 Excellent Reasons to Plan Your Next Great Escape

 

Are you looking for a day trip or overnight stay in rural Victoria? On the Campaspe River, Rochester is an idyllic spot to see silo art, take an informative walk through the Australian bush, and eat good food. My one-day guide will take you there.

 

On a 12-day road trip around Victoria, my sister and I stopped over in Bendigo and Ballarat, travelled the silo art trail, photographed our reflections on Lake Tyrrell, explored the Lakes District around Kerang, and walked the Koondrook Barham Redgum Statue Walk.

Rochester was our last stop, arriving late afternoon. The following day, we viewed Rochester’s silo artworks and took the river walk before heading home in the early afternoon. These are two of the best things to see and do in Rochester. The third best thing to do in Rochester was eating – well worth mentioning, given our food experience on this road trip.

Where is Rochester

Situated on the Campaspe River in Victoria (Australia), Rochester is 27 kilometres south of the Murray River Port of Echuca. The Murray River, in New South Wales, forms the border with Victoria and is Australia’s longest river.

Taking the fastest route, according to Google maps, Rochester is 187 kilometres north of Melbourne, 27 kilometres south of Echuca, and 240 kilometres south-west of the twin cities, Albury/Wodonga.

Silo artwork

Squirrel Glider and Azure Kingfisher painted on grain silos at Rochester, Victoria

Silo artworks of Squirrel Glider and Azure Kingfisher at Rochester, Victoria.

 

Rochester’s Silo Art project was the initiative of Rochester Business Network, with support from local businesses and the community. GrainCorp provided the silos as ‘creative’ canvases for artworks on a massive scale. To give you an idea of perspective, the concrete silo is 22 metres high (approximately 72 feet), while the height of the metal silo is 18 metres (about 59 feet).

The painted silos are in the heart of town. They feature the endangered Squirrel Glider on the concrete silo and the Azure Kingfisher on the metal silo. Both are native to Australia.

The painted silos, completed in 2018, is an open-air gallery that never closes and is free to visit. It is street art at its best.

The artist who designed and painted these magnificent murals, Jimmy DVate, is the same artist who painted the silos at Goorambat in North East Victoria.

Jimmy is a Melbourne based artist and graphic designer whose talent is recognised nationally and internationally. He is passionate about conservation and is particularly keen to highlight the plight of endangered species. Painting threatened Australian native fauna is a ‘signature’ of Jimmy’s artwork.

Of all the silo artworks we saw on this road trip around Victoria, which took in the Silo Art Trail, the Rochester painted silos were my sister’s favourite. They rate very highly on my list too. I think I must have an affinity with Jimmy DVate’s artworks as his paintings on the silos at Goorambat are also at the top of my favourites list.

The endangered Squirrel Glider painted on Rochester’s grain silo

 

River Walk

Walking from the painted silos, we made our way to Rochester’s Red Bridge, a timber rail bridge crossing the Campaspe River at the northern end of Ramsay Street. Built in 1876, the Red Bridge consists of three openings of 14 metres spanning the river and 16 openings of seven metres over the flood plain.

A photo of a rail bridge on brick arches surrounded by Australian native trees

Red Bridge – the rail bridge crossing the Campaspe River at Rochester

 

The Red Bridge features in the background in the silo artwork of the Kingfisher.

Painting of a blue and yellow bird, a river, and a bridge on a metal silo

Rochester’s Red Bridge features in the background on the silo artwork of the Kingfisher

 

The Red Bridge was our starting point for the 3-kilometre signposted river walk through the urban bushland of the Campaspe River Reserve at Rochester.

The red dotted line indicates the river walk on the map below – taken from the brochure, Experience Rochester, courtesy of Rochester’s Visitor Information Centre.

The river walk route shown on the map of Rochester, Victoria

Map of Rochester, Victoria, showing the river walk route

 

The trail meanders beside the Campaspe River through the iconic Australian bush. The Australian bush always gives me that sense of being home, no matter where I am experiencing it in Australia. And this walk did not disappoint. It was so peaceful. Just us two and birdsong.

The river walk was an easy 3-kilometre walk along the riverbank. Being flat, it was not in the least bit challenging. Benches provided a place to sit for a while and immerse yourself in the stillness and tranquillity.

The trees provide a habitat for local wildlife. My sister enjoyed seeking and identifying the different species of native birds.

Rochester’s river walk through the Campaspe River Reserve is not just a bush walk but a history lesson along the way. Plaques dot the trail at specific points of local historical interest, providing insight into how the local Aboriginal people used the area. For example, pointing out ‘scarred’ trees caused when the Aboriginal people stripped the bark to make canoes, shields, containers, and shelters. And the grooved rocks from grinding their axes.

The Campaspe River is a tributary of the Murray River. It is slow-flowing along the Reserve’s walk – as evidenced in the photos I took of the bush reflected in its waters.

When to go

We visited Rochester in the first week of May, towards the end of Australia’s autumn. In May, the average daytime temperature for Rochester is 17 degrees Celsius, with an average of 5 rain days for the month. The temperature was just right for a bushwalk along the river.

If you are looking at visiting Rochester at another time of year and wondering what the weather will be, you can find the information you need at FarmOnline Weather.

Where to eat

On our 12-day road trip around Victoria, we struggled to find decent food. Food that gives you that feeling of satisfaction. Food that lets you know you have eaten well. We could count on one hand the number of good meals we had on this road trip. But Rochester scored 2 out of 2 – dinner at the Shamrock Hotel and breakfast at Kits Kafe.

Our decision to try the centrally located, historic Shamrock Hotel for dinner was a good one (corner of Gillies and Moore Streets). I had crumbed lamb chops on a bed of mashed potatoes with seasonal steamed vegetables. My sister had the Thai Beef Stir Fry. We both agreed the food was excellent. These were some of the best pub meals we had ever eaten and were thoroughly enjoyed. Had we been staying another night, we would have gone back for seconds as there was much more on the menu we wanted to try.

Breakfast at Kits Kafe (51 Moore Street) was a yummy affair. We both had the pancakes – mine with maple syrup and bacon and my sister’s with fruit cumquat and bacon. The service was excellent, the food was delicious, and the coffee was worth going back for after our river walk.

We could see the silo artworks across the road from the Kits Kafe.

Where to stay

In Rochester, we stayed at the Rochester Motel, but there are other accommodation options available.

Next time I overnight in Rochester, I would like to stay at The Tavern (49 Moore Street) – bed and breakfast accommodation offering boutique queen rooms with ensuite.

Our main reasons for stopping overnight at Rochester were to break the journey between Kerang and Albury and see the silo artworks I had heard much about. The river walk was an enjoyable bonus, as was our food experience. In all, we came away feeling delighted with our visit to Rochester.

 

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless specifically stated, all photos are my own and remain the copyright © of Just Me Travel.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Are amazing silo art, a beautiful river walk, and good food enough to tempt you to visit Rochester? What else would you recommend people see and do in Rochester?

 

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A painting on a metal grain storage silo of a blue and yellow bird with a long narrow beak. The painting includes a river and a bridge behind the bars.

Gum trees along the banks of a river

 

Related posts

For more on Victoria, Australia, read:

UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO ROAD TRIPPING VICTORIA’S SILO ART TRAIL

FOOD IS FREE LANEWAY ENGAGES AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY SPIRIT

High Tea on the Yarra River, Melbourne

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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THE UNIQUE YINDYAMARRA SCULPTURE WALK IN ALBURY, NEW SOUTH WALES [2021 UPDATED]

Unique Sculptures Beside the Murray River in Albury Celebrate Local Aboriginal Art and Culture   The Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk is a shared walking and cycling path with the mighty Murray…

Unique Sculptures Beside the Murray River in Albury Celebrate Local Aboriginal Art and Culture

 

The Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk is a shared walking and cycling path with the mighty Murray River on one side and West Albury Wetlands on the other. What makes this path unique is the Aboriginal sculptures by local Indigenous artists installed along the way, sculptures that tell stories of Aboriginal culture and lore. Follow the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk through the photographs in this post, learning about each sculpture as you go.

 

A river with trees reflected in its waters

Murray River near Kremur Street Boat Ramp, Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk

 

Photo of a pond with dead trees in it, surrounded by bush

West Albury Wetlands, viewed from the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk

 

The Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk in Albury is a 5.6-kilometre (loop) section of the much longer Wagirra Trail (15 kilometres return, linking Wonga Wetlands with the South Albury Trail). Following the Murray River, the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk stretches from the Kremur Street boat ramp (off Padman Drive in West Albury) to Horseshoe Lagoon (accessed via the Riverina Highway). You can do the walk in the reverse direction.

I first published THE UNIQUE YINDYAMARRA SCULPTURE WALK IN ALBURY, NEW SOUTH WALES on November 22, 2020. At the time, Albury City Council had announced three new sculptures would be installed in July 2021. So, I knew I would be updating this post within the year.

The first stage of the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was completed in December 2014. In July 2021, three new sculptures were added to the trail, and ten painted panels (‘Leaving Our Mark’) were installed along two fences near Horseshoe Lagoon. The contemporary artwork along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk has been created by local Indigenous artists telling stories of connection to country and living culture. The sculptures are a celebration of local Aboriginal culture.

Bicycle riders, walkers, and joggers share the predominantly flat, 2-metre-wide sealed path. Dogs on leads are permitted.

Albury, on the New South Wales side of the Murray River (Australia’s longest river), is located in Wiradjuri Country – the traditional lands of the Aboriginal Wiradjuri people.

Yindyamarra is a word from the Wiradjuri language, meaning respect, be gentle, be polite, and do slowly.

I have walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk several times. Refer to the end of this post to know the lessons I have learned from walking the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk.

A map of a river, lagoon and wetlands showing a walking track and places of interest

Map of the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk with the locations of the sculptures

 

The Sculptures:

The information provided below about the artists and the story behind the sculptures is taken from the interpretive panels presented at each sculpture site.

Starting the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk from the Kremur Street Boat Ramp, I will take you on a visual tour of unique Aboriginal art by Indigenous artists along the banks of the Murray River in Albury. I aim to pique your interest enough for you to walk or ride this beautiful path for yourself.

Teaming Life of Milawa Billa

A metal panel with birds, fish, yabbies, turtle and handprints carved on it

Artists: Teaming Life of Milawa Billa (Murray River) was created by the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk Steering Committee – Daniel Cledd, Robyn Heckenberg, John Murray, Aunty Edna Stewart, and Aunty Muriel Williams.

The Teaming Life of Milawa Billa sculpture signals the commencement of the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk at the Kremur Street Boat Ramp picnic area. The design draws together significant elements from the natural environment of the Murray River – the birds, the fish, the reeds, and the yabby – telling the story of the health of the river and its cultural significance.

Reconciliation Shield

A metal shield on a pole with black and white figures carved on it

Artist: Tamara Murray. Tamara is a proud member of the Barkandtji tribe on her mother’s side and Yorta Yorta and Dhudaroah tribes on her father’s side.

For Tamara, the Reconciliation Shield represents bringing everyone together – working together, walking together, and living together; to make everything better, especially for the next generation. ‘The figure depicted is holding his hands in a position of submission. Enough is enough – we all need to walk together on this journey of reconciliation.’

Creature Seats

Wooden seats in the shape of animals surrounded by grass and trees

Artists: James Fallon High School. The standing goanna by Liam Campbell (Wiradjuri), the turtle by Sara Jackson Edwards (Wamba Wamba), the snake by Raymond Jackson Edwards (Wamba Wamba), and the climbing goanna by Jaidyon Hampton (Malyangaba).

The students sculpted these creatures under the mentorship of the Aboriginal Men’s Shed and the local community. The students created a space where stories could be told and local animal life could be celebrated.

Guguburra

Three large metal kookaburras with the bush behind them

Artist: Peter Ingram. Peter is a local Wiradjuri man who enjoys making sculptures from metal and many other resources, creating artworks that bring to life country’s ancient stories of creation and lore.

Guguburra is the Wiradjuri word for kookaburra. It is seen as the most beautiful bird (budyaan) in Wiradjuri country, with wonderful attributes and character.

Guruburra is patient and kind. He will often let others before him but will defend his ground if required. He loves to laugh and reminds us to do so each day. He travels in family groups, is loyal, but sometimes ventures out alone to visit a friend and sing them a beautiful song. Guruburra shows us a wonderful way to live our lives – with joy, balance, and patience.

Vertical Message Sticks

Three wooden poles with animals carved on them

Artist: Carmel Taylor. Carmel is a Wiradjuri woman.

The message sticks are a celebration of Carmel’s knowledge of the natural history of the river.

Carmel tells us she chose the theme of animals because she genuinely loves them, and they are native to the Albury area, bringing much joy to children and adults.

Bogong Moth Migration

A metal tree with metal moths attached to the tree

Artist: Ruth Davys. Ruth is a proud Wiradjuri woman.

The Bogong Moth is a creature of cultural significance for Indigenous Australians.

Traditionally, each year the Indigenous people of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria would meet at Mungabareena Reserve (Albury) to perform ceremonies, exchange goods and discuss tribal lore. They would then travel to the high country (Victoria’s Alpine region) to feast on Bogong Moths.

Family Gathering

Flat metal figures sitting in a circle, representing a family

Artist: Michael Quinn. Michael is a locally based Wiradjuri man. Family is very important to Michael. They are his life.

Michael’s sculpture depicts how the family used to gather and represents the importance of the family group – their staying together and connection to the land. The circle represents this unity, and the rocks represent strength and the earth. Thereby, holding the group together.

Celebrate Together

Walk with us on Wiradjuri Country

A decorative metal ball hanging from chains on three poles

Artist: Tamara Murray. Tamara is a proud member of the Barkandtji tribe on her mother’s side, and Yorta Yorta and Dhudaroah tribes on her father’s side. Having lived on Wiradjuri land for 14 years, Tamara tells us her spirit has never been more at peace than it is on this land.

This sculpture sends a strong message to all that we stand, walk and dance on Wiradjuri country. It is a message to Wiradjuri children to hold on to and celebrate their culture as their ancestors have done and are still doing.

The Bigger Picture

A wooden and metal Fram framing a river

Artist: Katrina Weston. Katrina is an Aboriginal person from the Barkindtji/Nyampa tribes.

According to Katrina, the purpose of the oversized picture frame is to see how the landscape changes within the frame over the years to come.

The picture within the frame is a moving, living landscape with many stories to be told and shared. It will bring people together to share traditional stories. The picture frame represents movement and change for Aboriginal people who are evolving to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

Leaving Our Mark

Artists: Various members of Albury City’s Wagirra Team – Curtis Reid, Jarret Trewin, Harry Dennis, Leroy Eggmolesse, Shane Charles, Noel Stewart, Ethan Moffitt, Richard Sievers, Keanu Wighton, and Toby Ardler.

Working on the Wagirra trail, a section of which is the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk, connected the artists to country and culture. The images are their way of telling their story along the trail.

Goanna

A photo of a concrete sculpture of a goanna

Artist: Kianna Edwards. Kianna is a young Wiradjuri woman from Albury.

Kianna comments, “This Goanna represents one of the main totems for the Wiradjuri Nation. It holds a significant place in my spirit. It’s my totem. My story. My culture.”

‘Maya’ Fish Trap

A photo of a wire, circular fish trap

Artists: Uncle Ken (Tunny) Murray, Darren Wighton and Andom Rendell from the Aboriginal Men’s Shed.

This over-proportioned sculpture is of a funnel style fish trap that was commonly used by the Wiradjuri people in the Albury area. These traps were woven from reeds and could even be customised to trap specific fish as well as allowing smaller fish to escape, thus protecting the species for the future.

Wiradjuri Woman

Artist: Leonie McIntosh. Leonie is a proud Wiradjuri woman.

Leonie’s Wiradjuri Woman sculpture is based on the Possum Skin Cloak design burnt on her Nan’s cloak, which she wore for the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

Leonie has created a sculpture of Wiradjuri Woman emerging out of this 350 – 400-year-old tree stump – ‘as if a spirit is breaking free’.

Googar

A photo of a large, carved wooden goanna, with a river behind the sculpture

Artist: Darren Wighton. Darren is a community leader of Wiradjuri descent.

‘Googar’ is the Wiradjuri word for ‘goanna’. At 4 metres in length, Darren’s Googar sculpture is a larger-than-life version of a small wooden toy goanna that Wiradjuri children would play with and learn from in traditional times.

Useful information

At the Kremur Street boat ramp, you will find free parking, public toilets, and a picnic area.

A photo of wooden picnic tables and benches on the banks of a river

Picnic area on the banks of the Murray River at Kremur Street Boat Ramp, Albury

 

Horseshoe Lagoon has parking off the Riverina Highway but has no toilets or picnic facilities. It is a couple of minutes walk from the parking area to join the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk trail.

Albury is a large inland city in New South Wales on the banks of the Murray River – Australia’s longest river. It is 553 kilometres southwest of Sydney via the Hume Highway and 326 kilometres northeast of Melbourne.

A river with trees and clouds reflected in its waters, with ducks swimming in the river and a canoe on the river's edge

The Murray River at Noreuil Park in Albury – a popular swimming spot

 

Lessons learned from having walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk previously:

The first time I walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with my sister. We commenced our walk at Noreuil Park and walked to Wonga Wetlands. As the car was at Noreuil Park, we had no alternative but to walk back the way we had come. This walk was a 14-kilometre round trip. By the time we were halfway back on our return journey, we could barely lift our feet and couldn’t talk to each other.

My second attempt at the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with my daughter. We left the car at Noreuil Park (I must be a slow learner) and headed out on the walk. About a kilometre from Wonga Wetlands (6 kilometres walked), my daughter could see I was flagging. So, as you can imagine, I jumped at her suggestion to sit in the shade of a tree while she jogged back for the car. Oh, to be young and fit!

My third walk along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with two friends. I insisted we have a car at either end of the walk as I had now (finally) learned my walking limitations. On this occasion, we left a car at the Kremur Street Boat Ramp and drove to Wonga Wetlands, where we left the second car and commenced our walk.

A photo of an echidna

An echidna scurries into the bush near Wonga Wetlands

 

When I initially wrote this article (November 2020), I recommended readers to walk between Horseshoe Lagoon and Kremur Street Boat Ramp (or vice versa), with a car at either end. It would seem, in the pursuing months, I have become fitter. On my latest venture along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk to take photos of the additional sculptures, I found the 5.6-kilometre loop an easy, enjoyable walk.

What my friends had to say about the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk:

For those bird lovers out there, one of my friends recommends taking binoculars as there are several species of birds to spot along the walk.

Both friends thoroughly enjoyed the walk (described as a ‘leisurely stroll’ by one), and they commented on the number of birds, wildlife and plants seen along the way. As one friend said, seating along the walk would have been good – to absorb a sculpture, to sit and watch the river flow past, and to contemplate the landscape.

I have walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk several times now and have not tired of seeing the sculptures. My friends felt the sculptures showcased the artistic abilities of the local men and women of the surrounding indigenous tribes while telling their own unique stories.

I, my friends, my daughter, and my sister, recommend the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk. With the sculptures, the river, and the surrounding bush, it is an exceptional, unique walk. Ride your bike, walk the dog, or not, but see the sculptures for yourself.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Where else have you seen Aboriginal sculptures that you would like to share with readers?

 

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Related posts

Still on an art theme in Australia, check out the posts below I wrote on the unique silo art in Victoria and New South Wales. They are packed with amazing photos, information, and tips.

> The Complete Guide to Road Tripping Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

> Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna

> 3 of the Best Things to See and Do in Rochester

> 5 of the Best Painted Silos in New South Wales

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

Copyright © Just Me Travel 2021. All rights reserved.

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WALLAWWA – a tranquil luxury boutique hotel in Colombo City [2021 UPDATED]

Wonderful Accommodation in an Oasis of Tranquility in Sri Lanka Wallawwa is luxury accommodation at its best. It is all character and serenity. Read on to see why I recommend…

Wonderful Accommodation in an Oasis of Tranquility in Sri Lanka

Wallawwa is luxury accommodation at its best. It is all character and serenity. Read on to see why I recommend you experience Wallawwa for yourself.

Picture yourself relaxing by the secluded pool and being able to buzz for bar staff to attend to your needs. Imagine playing croquet on the manicured lawns before partaking in complimentary tea and cakes at 3 o’clock on the wide veranda. This was my reality of Wallawwa, a luxurious, boutique hotel whose former life was an 18th-century colonial manor house.

Set in acres of lush gardens scattered with daybeds and couches strategically placed around the main lawn, Wallawwa manages a feeling of intimacy.

Wallawwa’s 18 spacious rooms include two family suites and a two-bedroom suite with a pool. All rooms open onto a secluded veranda and tropical garden. My ‘Wallawwa Bedroom’ was comfortable, cool, and tastefully furnished. There was no missing the magnificent king-sized four-poster bed (twin beds are available). A large, polished concrete-lined bathroom with a rain shower, plush towels, and luxurious toiletries completed the room. The room amenities included tea/coffee making facilities – always a winner for me.

The staff were friendly, efficient, attentive and helpful.

The Verandah is Wallawwa’s open-sided restaurant serving top class Asian cuisine, with much of the produce used in the cooking coming from the hotel’s organic garden. Make sure you leave room for dessert because they are to die for.

For those looking for personal pampering, Wallawwa’s Z Spa offers a collection of relaxing treatments. Unfortunately, my stay at Wallawwa was only one night, and I could not treat myself to one of their signature massages. Next time.

If you must leave this piece of tranquillity, Wallawwa can arrange excursions for you.

Wallawwa, on Minuwangoda Road, Kotugoda, is just a 15-minute drive from Colombo International Airport and 30 minutes to the city.

Rooms start at USD390 per night, including à la carte breakfast.

Wallawwa is one of seven Teardrop Hotels across Sri Lanka. I also stayed at Fort Bazaar (another Teardrop Hotel) in history-rich Galle Fort.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored.

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Would you stay here?

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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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EXPLORING BEAUTIFUL MELK ABBEY IS GUARANTEED TO BE SPECIAL

There are not enough adjectives to describe Melk Abbey. My first sighting of Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, took my breath away and it took a while before I could…

There are not enough adjectives to describe Melk Abbey. My first sighting of Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, took my breath away and it took a while before I could pick my jaw up off the ground. This beautiful, beautiful monastery (duplication not a typo) in Lower Austria should be on everyone’s European itinerary.

Melk Abbey is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It is Austria’s largest Baroque structure. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the old town of Melk and the Danube and Melk rivers, it sits within the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The abbey you see today was built between 1702 and 1736. But Melk Abbey is 900 years of history – all evidently told in the abbey’s museum. Originally a palace, Melk Abbey was gifted to the Benedictine monks in 1089 and has remained an active abbey ever since. Today, Melk Abbey has 30 monks (ranging in age from 21 to 96 years); a co-educational secondary school with 900 pupils; and extremely well presented, minimalist museum; and a church that I can only describe as ostentatious.

From every angle, Melk Abbey is impressive. I lost count of the number of times I said, “Oh my goodness”. Swathed in ochre-coloured paint, Melk Abbey is just the most beautiful building to behold. You might have gathered by now that I fell in love with Melk Abbey. And the guided tour cemented my love.

The guided tour through Melk Abbey commenced with a meet and greet in the large outer courtyard, the Gatekeeper’s Courtyard. In this courtyard, you will find the oak wooden statue of Saint Coloman. The statue is 150 years old and the oak was sourced from the abbey’s forests. Saint Coloman was Austria’s first patron saint until 1663. He is still the patron saint of Melk Abbey and the town of Melk.

From the Gatekeeper’s Courtyard, it was through the Benedict Hall and into the Prelate’s Courtyard. In this latter courtyard were four vivid, contemporary frescos; replacing the Baroque frescos that were unable to be restored. These frescos represent the four cardinal virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. The modernist style of the frescos caused some controversy as people tried to adjust to the move away from the original, and expected, Baroque style.

The fountain in the Prelate’s Courtyard is a copy of the Coloman fountain. The original, removed from Melk Abbey in 1722, now stands in Melk’s Town Hall Square.

Leaving the Prelate’s Courtyard through a narrow passageway, the Imperial Staircase leads up to the Imperial Wing.

The Imperial Wing was originally designed for the imperial court. Here, we find the Imperial Corridor and the imperial rooms (now housing Melk Abbey’s museum). A lot of ‘imperials’ happening here!

The Imperial Corridor, at 200 metres long, is impressive. The Corridor is hung with portraits of Austria’s rulers – from the first Babenberg Emperor, Leopold l, to the last Habsburg Emperor, Karl l. There are more portraits of Habsburgs because they ruled for longer.

The Melk Abbey museum, in the imperial rooms to the left of the Imperial Staircase, is extremely well set up and informative. It is minimalist in a positive way. That is, you get a good overview of the history (past and present) of the abbey, of its cultural, political and economic functions, but you are not left feeling overwhelmed; feeling as though there was too much to take in and, therefore, coming away none the wiser. No information overload here.

The museum comprises of 11 small rooms. The overriding theme of the museum is, “The Path from Yesterday to Today: Melk Abbey in its Past and Present”, with each room having its own individual theme. What follows are snippets of, in my opinion, interesting information taken from the guide’s explanations throughout the museum tour and my impressions.

Room 3 (“The Ups and Downs of History”) has a wavy floor, representing the ups and downs of life. The flooring is not the original Baroque because Napoleon was an unfortunate guest who burned documents on the floor.

Rooms 5 and 6 are a tribute to Melk Abbey’s contribution to the Baroque period. The Baroque period was a time in history of excess and all that glitters (gold, and more gold). “Heaven on Earth” seems to me an appropriate theme for this period. However, Room 7, with its, “In the Name of Reason” theme, represents new times and a sensible, frugal monarch. Joseph ll said the Baroque style was too expensive. But perhaps he was a little too frugal. Taking the Baroque style to the opposite extreme, he only allowed one coffin per church. The coffin designed to meet this requirement had a bottom that would open, allowing the corpse to drop through. Thus, the coffin could be used again.

Room 10 (“To Glorify God in Everything”) contains a 17th century iron chest used for secure storage and transporting the abbey’s most important documents and treasures. The chest has a convoluted locking mechanism, comprising of 14 locks that are still working.

The detailed model of Melk Abbey housed in Room 11 (“Motion is a sign of Life”) turns so you can see all sides unobstructed. There is a mirror on the ceiling to enable a view into the courtyards of the model.

The Marble Hall was a place to receive guests and dining hall for the imperial family. The name ‘Marble’ Hall is somewhat misleading as only the door frames are true marble. The ‘marble’ on the walls is faux marble. However, this is easily forgiven by the magnificent ceiling fresco that is complemented and framed by stunning architectural painting.

Magnificent views of the town of Melk, and the Danube and Melk rivers are to be had from the Terrace that connects the Marble Hall with the library. The Terrace also provides a great view of Melk Abbey church.

The library is the second most important room in any Benedictine monastery; second only to the church.

My favourite library to date has been Coimbra University library in Portugal. However, the competition between that library and Melk Abbey’s library would be a close contest. Both are stunningly beautiful. There is something uniquely special about the mix of dark wood and old books.

Melk Abbey library houses approximately 10,000 volumes, with manuscripts dating back to the 9th century. The uniformity of the books in the inlaid bookshelves is due to them all being bound to match. With internal balconies, wooden sculptures, a huge free-standing world globe, figurines and frescoed ceilings, the library is an entrancing vision. It also exudes peace and tranquillity; a place where I could easily spend hours just sitting and soaking in the atmosphere. I know I am waxing lyrical here, but I can’t help it. Melk Abbey library does that to me. No wonder Umberto Eco conducted his research on his book, The Name of the Rose in Melk Abbey’s library. But more on that later.

The upper floor of the library, reached by a spiral staircase, is not open to the public.

The guided tour ended in the library. I lingered to absorb the library’s ambiance before heading to the church on the recommendation of the guide.

My visit to Melk Abbey’s church, not part of the guided tour, was very brief as I am over what I can only describe as ostentatious, Baroque churches. Of note, however, is the Altar of St. Coloman. Here you will find a sarcophagus with, we are told, the remains of St. Coloman, the patron saint of Melk Abbey.

Photography was not permitted inside Melk Abbey’s museum, the Marble Hall, the library, or the church.

You don’t have to take the one-hour guided tour of Melk Abbey (except in the winter months). However, it is my opinion this would be false economy as the explanations provided by the guide throughout the tour were invaluable. The guide’s story telling brought Melk Abbey alive; revealing all its traits.

 

Melk Abbey’s literary connection is not just confined to the books in its historical library.

The Name of the Rose, written by Umberto Eco (1980), is a historical murder mystery (a medieval whodunit) set in an Italian Cistercian monastery in 1327.

But what does a story about murders in a Cistercian monastery in Italy have to do with a Benedictine monastery in Austria? The connection is Melk Abbey’s magnificent library. You see, the focal point in The Name of the Rose is the library where all the murders take place. Melk Abbey’s library is said to be Eco’s inspiration for the library in The Name of the Rose.

But the connection goes further than that. One of Eco’s main characters in The Name of the Rose is Adso of Melk, a Benedictine novice from Melk Abbey. The Name of the Rose is Adso of Melk’s story as he is the narrator. As way of introduction, Adso of Melk informs us he is writing his narrative, now an old man, at Melk Abbey. On the last page of The Name of the Rose, Adso of Melk tells the reader he is leaving his manuscript in the library of Melk Abbey.

 

In summary, make the effort to visit Melk Abbey. You won’t be disappointed. I guarantee it is something special.

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

 

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JOIN A PHOTO SAFARI – a unique way to see amazing Amsterdam

What better way to capture a city than through a photography tour or workshop with a local? That’s just what I did when I signed up for two photography tours…

What better way to capture a city than through a photography tour or workshop with a local? That’s just what I did when I signed up for two photography tours in Amsterdam with Amsterdam Photo Safari – the 6-hour walking night photography tour (5.30pm to 11.30pm) and the 5-hour walking day photography tour (11.00am to 4.00pm).

Ruud was my guide and tutor on both photography tours. Amsterdam is his home. I had Ruud to myself for both tours. This was simply luck of the draw as I had not booked private tours. As we walked around Amsterdam’s districts, he exposed this amazing city’s personality; opening up its beating heart and its multi-facetted soul. Ruud took me to places I would never have got to as a traveller. His knowledgeable stories brought Amsterdam to life for me. According to Ruud, “Every photo has a story and to every story there is a photo”. Not only did I feel I improved my photography skills from the guided tuition of a professional photographer who was an excellent teacher, but I discovered Amsterdam from a born storyteller. I found my time with Rudd increased my consciousness of my surroundings. Particularly in terms of what to photograph; what will make an interesting photo; and what will make a photo pop. Thank you Ruud.

Amsterdam house with reflections in windows

Buildings reflected in every window of a house in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Photo Safari cater for all skill levels. I describe myself as an amateur photographer with (now) intermediate skills. I firmly believe that no one is ever too skilled to learn new things. Ruud gave me the confidence to use manual focus (I have a DSLR camera); showing how it better captures a subject that is, for example, reflected in a window or puddle of water. He provided positive and constructive feedback. At no time was I made to feel inadequate.

Ruud’s focus was on me, my learning, my camera, my photography. I believe this was not simply because I was the only participant. Even had there been other participants, the focus still would have been ‘individual’. This was important for me as I was extremely annoyed (to say the least) on one photography holiday a number of years ago where the photography tutor was more interested in the photographs he could capture for himself than those of his paying guests.

Ruud was very keen on shallow depth of field; recommending I set the camera’s f-stop to f/3.5 (the lowest my camera will go). For those non-photographers, shallow depth of field is the immediate foreground in focus, for example a box of flowers or a bicycle (plenty of those in Amsterdam), and the background out of focus (blurred). My passion is travel photography and I doubted such shallow depth of field would suit my purposes. Ruud’s argument was that even though the background is blurred, it is still recognisable and produces a more creative photo. See the photos below for a visual explanation of what I am referring to. While I went along with Rudd, I thought I would never use such a shallow depth of field with my travel photography. I am also someone who wants everything in the photo in focus. So, to find myself using f/3.5 on my further travels through Europe, I surprised myself and silently thanked Ruud. I now have some pretty good, creative photos to add to my memories of the places I have been.

The sign of a good photography tutor is one who can work their way around any camera brand, no matter how unfamiliar they might be with different brands. Ruud’s camera of choice is a Sony, while mine is a Nikon. Rudd admitted he was not overly familiar with Nikons. However, I would not have picked up on this without him telling me. The only hint came during the night photography tour. I had my tripod (these can be hired from Amsterdam Photo Safari at a minimal cost) but had left my remote shutter release back in my hotel room (clever!). I couldn’t remember how to set the in-camera timer. Ruud wasn’t fazed by this. After a quick, unfruitful play with my camera’s dials, out came his mobile phone and an internet search quickly told us where the timer was. No shooting time or opportunities lost.

Given that I live in Australia, all my communications with Amsterdam Photo Safari was via email. Booking with Amsterdam Photo Safari was made so easy thanks to the prompt and detailed responses to my email queries. Payment was made through PayPal (no account required). I even managed to negotiate a discount with Amsterdam Photo Safari for booking two photography tours with them. Once booked, communication from Amsterdam Photo Safari did not cease as they kept me informed with who would be my photography tutor, the meeting place, time etc. Thanks Barry.

Barry went above and beyond, suggesting (unrelated to Amsterdam Photo Safari) places near Amsterdam worth visiting; one of which I added to my itinerary. I was not disappointed.

Comfortable walking shoes are essential. Even though we stopped for coffee breaks, to have the stamina to keep going was crucial. I have to admit, by 3.30pm on the day photography tour I was ready to sit down and not get up again.

I thoroughly enjoyed the night and day photography tours with Amsterdam Photo Safari. I got to discover Amsterdam from a local and learnt so much. My knowledge and understanding of composition and perspective and how to look for and achieve these, were significantly enhanced. But for me, I learnt the most on the night photography tour. Learning how to set up and use long exposure (an area of photography I was not familiar with – as evidenced by my inability to find the timer on my camera) has opened up a whole new genre of photography for me. The canal boats made an excellent subject for long exposure; with their lights making colourful trails across the photo.

Streaks of lights from a canal boat passing houses on a canal in Amsterdam

A canal boat passing in front of houses on a canal in Amsterdam becomes a transparent, colourful trail of lights through long exposure

 

I highly recommend Amsterdam Photo Safari.

Note:  Flexibility around Amsterdam Photo Safari’s tour hours was not a hassle. I needed to end the night photography tour earlier than designated as I had to ensure I did not miss the last tram back to my hotel. Additional time was simply added to my day photography tour the next day (hence my flagging energy?). Had I not been taking another photography tour the next day, I am convinced Amsterdam Photo Safari would have suggested something appropriate and mutually acceptable in the way of compensation.

 

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A yellow boat and blue boat on a canal in front of narrow, tall buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

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