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My Love-Hate Relationship with Australia

26 Dec stormclouds incoming over sydney, australia

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]THINGS I LOVE ABOUT AUSTRALIA

1: The Landscapes
After Namibia and Mongolia, Australia is the third least densely populated country in the world. And given almost everyone lives in cities and the nation has the money to build roads, it has the most easily accessible big, empty landscapes on this earth.

Zac and his grandfather on the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere

The horizons are huge… Continue reading

Solo in Sydney* or: Getting My Groove Back

17 Dec

candle-lit mantlepiece with shiny silver backdrop.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a pulse will not be in want of attention in a cocktail bar. I have no idea how I’d forgotten this. But I had…

Over the course of a “career” not so much chequered as positively gingham, but dominated by language and creative stuff, one of few constants has been writing about bars, cocktails, bartenders and combinations thereof.

So as the witching hour when economics moves me from travelling mama to digital nomad mama approaches (accelerated by the prices in Oz), I’ve dipped a tentative toe back into the world of paid writing.

More specifically, an old, old friend and quondam employer who has asked me to identify, write up and take the odd shot of the top bars in Sydney and Melbourne. Z? He’s frolicking in saltwater pools outside Cairns with his dad.

So here I am, in Sydney. Solo. Bouncing around cocktail bars and landmarks with a notebook and a camera as I did rather a lot from age 24 until Z arrived on the scene two years later.

And how does it feel? Continue reading

Oof! We’re in Australia…

2 Dec

Sign in the Australian outback, indicating that roads to and from Mount Hopeless are closed.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Like a lot of Londoners, I’ve always taken a sort of lugubrious, self-hating pride in coming from one of the world’s most expensive cities (third in 2008, seventeenth this year).

Prices, in fact, along with national sporting failures, weather — the UK is currently in the annual winter paralysis induced by the kind of snow the average Canadian wouldn’t put on socks for — and the state of the Tube (still crowded!) are things we can dwell on with an enthusiasm so incomprehensible to outsiders that we are globally decried as a nation of whingers.

This does, however, have advantages. Notably, the rest of the world (excluding Japan, Scandinavia, parts of Switzerland and the odd Stan) seems pretty damn cheap once you’re out there.

In fact, it does until you reach Australia. A country still, bizarrely, listed as a budget travel destination. Travel destination? Sure.

Budget travel? Oof!

Because that audible, gut-punch, WTF “oof!” has been a soundtrack to our Australian experience. Most naturally experienced when bouncing off the seatbelt in a Toyota HiLux, assailed by swarms of giant locusts Continue reading

When Travel Becomes Time Travel

23 Sep

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Tomorrow we embark for Pulau Halmahera, one of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, where we will travel back in time.

Our aim? To experience the nomadic hunter-gatherer life as it is still lived today, among unassimilated Togutil people.

And this is a journey almost as close to time travel as it is possible to get. A step right back into human history. Continue reading

A Fistful of Dollars

17 Sep little girls in marching band, Rantepao, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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Our favoured local, back in Rantepao in the Tana Toraja, was the hangout of the local Guides Association, a Teamsteresque conglomerate of the most amiable rogues since Dick Van Dyke.

Sporting various permutations of Aviators, moustaches, long hair, cropped hair and funeral sarongs as night-time outerwear, the chaps spent most of their time out back smoking clove cigarettes, drinking Bintang beer and swapping stacks over rupiah a card game not dissimilar to shithead.

We liked them a lot.

Didn’t play cards with them, mind.

I mean, that would have been just stupid. Continue reading

13 Things You’ll Learn Travelling Indonesia

15 Sep Ferry at sunrise in Ampana Port, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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1: There is a Nadir for In-Vehicle Entertainment
Audio-visual torture of various kinds is an intrinsic part of the South-East Asian travel experience. From bootleg DVDs with subtitles straight out of Finnegans WakeContinue reading

Souls Growing Skywards with the Trees

5 Sep Trees silhouetted against twilit sky. Baby graves, Pana, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, indonesia.

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At Pana, the cave graves were easy to find, half of them broken open, looming out of a granite slab in the oncoming dusk and framed by dark bamboo.

The baby graves? Well, as the beautiful kids who gave us directions and made us sign the guestbook said, they were in a “big tree”.

“These holes in the trunk,” I wondered to Z. But they seemed so natural, gnarled by age into natural knots.

So, no, we decided. They must be the bundles high up in the branches with the ferns shooting out of them, basket coffins transformed into a proliferation of life. Continue reading

6 Signs That Say You’re a Long Way from Home

29 Aug

Sign in Indonesian airport toilet, showing users not to squat on the toilet, throw food, utensils or bottles into the toilet, or flush the toilet using a hose.
1: Instructions on how to use the toilet. [tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

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Makassar airport, Indonesia, caters both to Westerners and locals on, perhaps, their first flight ever. Which is why the Western-style thrones have these handy instructions on the side of the cubicle.

For safety reasons all weapons must be kept by air crew during flight.
2: Weapons? Just leave them with the cabin crew. Continue reading

Eight Months, Seven Countries

24 Aug Giant tree roots grow down over the ancient monastery of Ta Prohm, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

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As Z and I enter our eighth month of continuous travel, here’s one amazing thing we’ve done in each month of the year.

January: Making the Leap!
I’d been a home owner for almost a decade when we left in January. Working constantly for longer than that. Between us, Z and I had accumulated piles upon piles of, well, crap. Sifting through it was like sifting through past lives, wondering what this next phase would bring, what would happen when we stepped off the plane with packs on our backs, an odd mixture of anticipation, excitement and, yes, I guess, grieving, too. Continue reading

Mr. Confidence

15 Aug

Z, grinning, coming off slide with rubber ring. Poring Hot Springs, Kinabalu Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Sometimes, something happens which makes you look at your child with new eyes.

This morning, Z and I were at Poring Hot Springs, the sulphurous waters which seethe out of the jungly lowlands in the shadow of Mount Kinabalu. They function, if not as a panacea, at least as a salve for muscles recovering from ascending 800-plus metres of said mountain then descending more than 2 kilometres of it.

In a single day.

After a 2am start. Continue reading