Kings Park

Kings Park is an Icon for Perth. A short uphill walk from the CBD, it is an enormous space, mainly in its native state with panoramic views across the Swan River to the city. Julie and I spent a couple of hours with a volunteer guide walking through the ungardened section, looking at native plants growing au natural.

These are some of the images I captured. All plants are local to the area.




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I received a comment about wild flowers. This year has been very wet in Western Australia, making for some magnificent displays, both in public gardens and in the wild. Flowers always incite me to photography, with the challenge to capture not only colour but pattern, texture and environment. In fact every sense except smell.

So I am going to put up some floral posts. Some of these image have already appeared on Face Book, but this blog allows them to be displayed in a larger, better format.

These first pictures come from the Araluen Gardens during their Tulip week.

Where Have Gary & Julie Been?

I notice I haven’t posted for more than a year. There is a reason of course! This is a Travel Blog and I haven’t been travelling, sort of. I had planned to travel around Australia again in 2016, this time with my brother and sister but instead we spent five months in Perth helping out with my son Stuart’s family. We were living in our caravan but not travelling far, except to take the kids to school, that is.

We have started the the return trip to Sydney. Since I haven’t written about a cross continental Nullabor crossing before, I shall try to write it up. I think I better get around to changing my masthead too.


Here are the reasons for our stay in Perth, our grandchildren Shayna, Mason and James.


Stuart Julie and Gary with the children in front of the house in Armadale a suburb of Perth.

A Permanent Memorial and a Temporary Cathedral



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Some friends were asking about my New Zealand trip and what I had written earlier about the Christchurch earthquake. When I mentioned the “Cardboard Cathedral”, they wanted to know more. This temporary Cathedral building is on the site of Christchurch’s oldest Anglican Church, demolished after the earthquake. It replaced the original Christchurch Cathedral, still standing a few blocks away but awaiting demolition, too damaged by a whole series of earthquakes since 1864. Here is a link to more information.


Just across the road however, is a permanent open space where before Tuesday, 22 February 2011 stood the 7 story Canterbury TV building. In the less than 30 seconds nothing was standing except the wall with the lift shaft and 115 people, half the casualties of the city on the earthquake. Unlike most Christchurch building which were damages, like the 2 Cathedrals, t was relatively modern (1986) but an enquiry found it’s design deficient, it’s engineer inexperienced and under supervised and it should never have been approved causing it to collapse like pack of cards and catch fire. Amongst the dead were 70 foreign ESL students

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The NZ Government have acquired the site and set it aside as a permanent memorial to all the earthquake victims .

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Now to the temporary Cathedral. The renowned “catastrophe architect” Shuzeru Ban offered his services pro bono to plan and produce this as the first significant building erected after the earthquake – opened on 6 Aug 2013

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This A Frame Structure is made of 86 Cardboard tubes each weighing 500 kg, all supported on 8 six metre containers, which make up the walls

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This inside view shows the exposed ceiling structure of tubes. The Building is designed to be a performance space as well as church.

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The cardboard tube theme continues in the furnishings

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From Wikipedia “It rises 21 metres (69 ft) above the altar. Materials used include 60-centimetre (24 in)-diameter cardboard tubes, timber and steel.[16] The roof is of polycarbon,[11] with eight shipping containers forming the walls. The foundation is concrete slab. The architect wanted the cardboard tubes to be the structural elements, but local manufacturers could not produce tubes thick enough and importing the cardboard was rejected.[12] The 96 tubes, reinforced with laminated wood beams, are “coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants” with two-inch gaps between them so that light can filter inside. Instead of a replacement rose window, the building has triangular pieces of stained glass.[17] The building serves as a conference venue as well as a cathedral.[4]“”

There has been a lot of controversy over this building. Partly the cost of about NZ$6,000,000 for a building with an expiry date of 35 years – the estimated time before the cardboard loses strength through water absorption. The other complication regards the question of whether to repair or replace Christchurch’s original Cathedral as the permanent city Anglican cathedral. The original dates from 1864 so has tremendous heritage value but is believed to be damaged beyond safe, economical limits to repair. This kind of question is still being asked about many buildings in the city of Christchurch, yet to be demolished in the hope that they can be restored.

Wild Life on the South Island of New Zealand

Biology Teacher Alert!

The first thing to be said about NZ wildlife is that it is very different. There were no land based mammals, no snakes and the cool climate and isolation have discouraged the proliferation of other reptiles so, before the arrival of mankind only 750 years ago  on the Islands, ecological niches normally dominated by these groups were filled by birds. And what birds they were! Two that were driven to extinction by the Maori were examples of “Island Giantism”, where isolated species with little competition grow to a large size. The Moa was a flightless bird like the emu but it grew 3.6m in height and weighed 250 Kg and were the dominant herbivore in the forest ecosystems of NZ. Their only predator was the Haast’s Eagle. the largest eagle to ever lived weighed about 15 Kg with short broad wings suitable for flying in forests rather than soaring. The Kiwi has survived, but only just!


Not my photo (thanks Wikipedia) although we saw a live one but in strict no photo circumstances.This is a male who does all the egg sitting for up 90 days.

It’s the worlds smallest flightless bird so related to Ostriches, Emus and Moas. It is the size of a chicken, laying the largest egg in relation to body size (up to 450g -25% of the bird’s weight). Kiwis have bones with marrow, no sternum, wings that are not visible, excellent sense of smell (only bird with nostrils at the end of their beak) and a body temperature 2 degrees lower that other birds (more like mammals). They mate for life (more than 20 years) are usually nocturnal and eat small invertebrates, seeds, grubs, many varieties of worms, fruit, small crayfish, eels and amphibians. Following are my images

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This albatross took of directly in front of me. Juvenile albatrosses spend the first 5 years of their life at sea, flying uproot 5000 km per week. This is their normal flying height within 2 metres of the water. They mate for life and raise a single chick every 2 years.

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This Penguin chick was abandoned 2 days ago by his parents – that’s what it takes to provoke him to walk the km or so down hill to the water to start the next stage of his life.

Wildlife 2 smallThis Crested Fiordland Penguin is an endangered species because of predation of the nesting colonies by rats, cats, dogs and stoats. This one was washed ashore in a bad way and has been in hospital but soon to be returned to the wild.

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Another very young penguin hospital resident

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Large Gull

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Young fur seal having an afternoon rest on the rocks at the entrance to Ottago Bay  Wildlife 6 small

Mother Seal not far from her pup. The males left for the ocean weeks ago.Wildlife 4 small

Two seals pups at varying stages of development.

The penguin photographs were taken at Penguin Place in Dunedin, a self funded conservation project developed on farmland which incorporated a natural penguin rookery. The bird and NZ fur seal pictures were taken on a Monarch Wildlife Cruise which went past Taiaroa Head into the ocean outside

What to do in Dunedin?

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Ottago Bay and Dunedin, seen from the tower of Larnach “Castle”. The harbour and town are the mouth of an extinct volcano.

Maoris lived here from about 1250 but it was first settled by sealers and whalers from 1810.

Dunedin, the largest city in the southern province of Ottago in the South Island is proud of it’s Scottish heritage. The name comes from the celtic name for Edinburgh the Capitol of Scotland and the town was settled in  1848 by a Company formed by the Free Church of Scotland who instructed the Architect to emulate the “Romantic” characteristics of Edinburgh in the town plan. As we drove into the city centre we found it closed off for a mass Pipe Band Competition!

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On the way into Dunedin we stopped for lunch and a walk and a look at the Moeraki Boulders, amazing spherical concretions.

Dunedin most important industry is Tertiary Industry – with the countries first established University of Ottago, attracting students from all over NZ and giving the town a population 22% aged between 15 and 24 years old. We arrived for the weekend of Orientation Week, the last chance for the students to let loose before the start of lectures. The streets were packed and so were the pubs. That night, a Saturday was also the first home game for the Ottago Highlanders in the Rugby Super 15 competition, playing the Canterbury Crusaders and several of us decide to go to the “Glasshouse” as their stadium is known.

The Zoo at Dunedin

At the Glasshouse one end of the stadium is exclusively used for the students who do not ceases from singing, cheering and generally having a good time all night.

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The Highlanders win a line out from the Crusaders during the first half of the game. The Crusaders eventually won by 3 points. 

The almost highlight of my visit came at half time, soon after the photo was taken from the second tier of seating near the try line. For half time entertainment, a jeep with a gas powered bazooka drove around the stadium, firing cylinders into the crowd containing T shirts from one of the sponsors. They fired one high into the top tier above our seats but it bounced off a concrete support and dropped in my direction. For a short bloke I though my leap was well timed and adequate enough to get a firm right hand grip onto the mailing tube. Unfortunately the boof-headed young Kiwi from the seat in front wrestled it off me on the way to the ground and my moment of sporting fame as an old short rugby player in NZ was over.

Changing Reality into Fantasy as seen at Hobbiton

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Our driver on the one hour trip from to Hobbiton described the journey as “From Reality to Fantasy”, a  fair description of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The movies get some help from Peter Jackson that is not needed by a reader who just accepts the Author’ description of Hobbits as short and sturdy (with big hairy, bare feet!) and Gandalf the Wizzard as  taller.  in the Lord of the rings when Gandalf had a long conversation sitting in a cart next to Frodo, a special cart was built with the far seat separated from the near seat by a metre and set back. Gandalf in the foreground looks huge in comparison to Frodo. Mind you, they both had to direct their lies to a fanciful spot not the other actor. 3D meant the end of that trick and they had to use midget and giant standin actors.

Let’s start with the Hobbit Houses – there are 44 of them and they come in 9 sizes between 100% and 60% scale. Things like fences, tools and wheelbarrows were also produced in varying dimensions. More interesting was the effect of 3D technology in the the Hobbit.

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Julie is no giant, except when standing outside a minIture Hobbit House, or maybe peering over a 40 cm front fence!

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Under the artificial Oak tree on the left is Baggend, the home of the Baggins. The best house in the village was on the high point, of course! It needed to have a prominent tree and it didn’t . For the Lord of the Rings Trilogy the set was temporary, so they just found a suitable forest tree, cut it down and stuck it the soil. It died of course. In the  Hobbit trilogy, 10 years later later, the farmer negotiated the building of a permanent set to remain as the international tourist attraction Hobbiton has become. The tree in the image above is constructed of steel and vynyl with 375,000 indivually, hand painted leaves. This tree doesn’t die but the leaves do get blown off in heavy winds and need replacing.

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The selection of this property as the site for the Hobbiton set depended on this  “Lake”, the amazing Party Tree and the rural backdrops lacking 20th century artifacts like roads and power poles. To this mix were added a Hobbit Village of 44 Holes, the Millhouse and the Green Dragon Inn, where you can still buy an excellent drink. The house in the foreground belongs to Sam. It is one of half a dozen houses with a smoke generator in the chimney

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