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.

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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.

Caravanning in Western NSW

In October 2014 we travelled in our caravan from Sydney to Adelaide via the southern route through the Riverina and then back through Broken Hill. For my overseas readers thats a distance of over 3000 kilometres in three weeks. That central part of Australia is very hot, dry and desolate. During our 8 day trip through from Broken Hil through to Young the temperature each day ranged from a “cool” 36 degrees C to a “warmish” 41!

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Nine km from the city of Broken Hill amongst the Barrier Ranges is The Living Desert Reserve. A sculpture symposium was held on this hilltop in 1993 by artists from around the world, who produced 12 sandstone sculptures highlight the skyline, all with a story to tell. This was one.

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We stayed outside Broken Hill in the abandoned mining town of Silverton. Nearly a century after mining finished it is now a tourist attraction and a very popular movie set , best known for “Mad Max” and a multitude of commercials.

The photograph here is from the unique memorial outside a graveyard mainly featuring ancient headstones. The three turrets are formed from the broken heads of miners pickaxes. One side of the memorial members the miners who left the district to join the Army in WW1 100 years ago. The reverse side, facing the graves remembers the miners who died in the terrible working conditions where accidents were common and lung damage normal.

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The Header for my blog is a shot from the Menindee lakes, an artificial water storage build to supply the needs of Broken Hill. The Darling River would normally run dry in summer without the dams to contain the lakes and channels.

The Emu was a visitor while we were setting up our caravan. I imagine he(?) was hand reared because he followed me around while I photographed and even lay down at my feet like a dog while I read my book in a chair under the annex. I called him Willy.

Capri – Escape from Reality from Roman Times until Now

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The view from the Villa San Michelle in the comune of Anacapri on the western heights of Capri

Our day trip to Capri did not start well. The arrival of the Giro D’Italia in the region meant that our bus could not use the roads and our Tour Director, the amazing Barbara had to organise four hire cars at almost no notice to get us to the port to catch the boat to the Island.  Aside from the fact that I again got seasick (yes, even in the Mediterranean) the day was beautiful for a photographer. From the Ferry we first had a great view of the Port, then of the coastline and finally of the approach to the Island.

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 Many of the large Villas along the coastline have no road access so building materials are delivered by donkeys or helicopters

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Old fortifications have been reinvented as restaurants  and houses with great water views

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Space is at a premium and very expensive. Many of these villas are owned by very rich internationals who fly in for a week or two.

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Capri in the background above and the approach to the harbour below

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These Images are taken from the gardens a walk away from the town of Capri itself. We later took minibuses to the Comune of Anacapri high in the Hills to the west.

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Our local guide and Trafalgar tour director, Barbara got us unto the launch that circumnavigated the Island giving us a close up look at the Grotto (its real colour, not enhanced) , the craggy limestone of the Island and a different view from the sea of the settlements.

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Capri has had human settlements since neolithic times, with Greek colonies before the Romans really developed the Island. Among the ruins still visible is the Villa Jovis from which the Emperor Tiberius ruled for  10 years from 27 to 37 AD. More recently Capri has become a centre for Art, Literature and Celebrities as well as a major tourist destination.

 

Monte Cassino – the Battle, the Abbey and the Commonwealth War Cemetery

Monte Cassino – the Battle, the Abbey and the Commonwealth War Cemetery

 

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Douglas Lyne, a British veteran who fought at Monte Cassino, recalled*: “Monte Cassino was an objective hated by every Allied soldier anywhere near it.  So when we saw 250 Flying Fortresses buzzing up from the south on that perfectly clear February day, we thought wouldn’t it be marvellous if they dropped the whole lot on the monastery, then whoosh, down came 500 tons.  There was a colossal cheer, you could have heard it all the way to Naples.”  He paused, and when he continued his voice had changed.  “All except this one very close friend of mine, who said, ‘what are you thinking of, Douglas? are we in this war to destroy monasteries?’ And then I had a huge double take.  I thought, my God, what are we up to? I saw that in the last year and a half we had become literally barbarized.  We had become indistinguishable from any other army, the German army, the Russian army, the army of Genghis Khan, part of the great marauding horde whose instinct is to destroy, whose training is to destroy.”  Douglas Lyne sums up: “A bird of sanity perched on my shoulder.  I think he’s been there ever since.”          * “Monte Cassino – the Story of the Most Controversial Battle of World War II” by David Hapgood and David Richardson

In the background to the resting place for 3982 identified and 289 unidentified Commonwealth soldiers are the heights of Monte Cassino, the site of one of the most bloody campaigns of WW2.

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I think the reason for our stop at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Cassino may have had more to do with our bus driver needing a compulsory rest stop than allied patriotism. While the 114,979 had been killed or wounded during the four months campaign contained many Americans, all those from the US are buried at Anzio in the north, and our party was predominantly from the US.. There no Australians buried there either. At this stage of the war our troops were fighting for the survival of Australia in New Guinea as the Pacific had become our first priority. Hundreds of Canadians died in this series of four battles, and there were two Canadians in our party who knew that some small towns had lost many young men in this distant place. There were also rows and rows of New Zealanders put to rest here. In a serious of bloody battles attempted to dislodge the German Paratroop regiments with their Tank supports more than 300 New Zealand soldiers were killed, including nearly half of the Maori battalion the lead a major assault on the Mount.  I am very glad we stopped there.

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In this place 289 Graves are lacking a name but there is a memorial list for more than 4000 servicemen whose bodies were never found. I find this epitaph very moving.

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This Grave is named and it could be a relative of my Grandfather, who left England for Australia in the 1870’s.

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In many wars the ANZACs fought together, but at Cassino our Kiwi brother were teamed up with the Indian Gurkhas in some of the fiercest fighting.

The four battles for Cassino had a well lead, desperate German force with an enormous tactical advantage of the high ground, with well prepared defences. The Allied troops were fighting uphill, with no cover and over flooded ground preventing their used of armour. They had an enormous advantage of manpower, material and complete control of the Air. The Allies only won because of their preparedness to pay the price with their men – a butcher’s bill.

Lest We Forget

To return and finish with the Monastery. Built originally by St. Benedict in 529 AD, it had been destroyed and rebuilt four times before WW2, in 581 and 884 it was sacked, it was damaged by earthquake in 1349 and by Napoleon in 1799. Each time it was more lavishly rebuilt and after 1866 was considered an Italian National Monument. It wa, however, s a key stronghold in the 100 Km Gustav Line defending Rome from the Allies. From the Allied point of view, it caused the Germans to keep some of their best troops away from France. Eventually Rome was to fall 2 days before D Day. The Allies were sure that it was being used as an observation post. They were afraid that under heavy attacks German troops would shelter within the Abbey and then launch counter attacks on vulnerable, exposed troops. Accordingly , on February 15, 1944 the abbey was almost completely destroyed in a series of heavy American led air-raids. Enquiries after the war established that at the time of the attack, only civilians were within the buildings (230 killed) and , ironically, the ruins proved to be much more effective in sheltering the German troops, in active fighting roles, than the complete building ever would have. The building was restored after the war. I couldn’t get a photo from a moving bus so you will have to manage with two from Flickr with creative commons licenses one from 1944 and the second after its reconsecration in 1964

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Abbey Cassino

 A magnificent building no doubt, but no replacement for nearly 150,000 men, Allied and German, killed or crippled during the advance on Rome.