Tag Archives: Family

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

Seeing Stars in the Outback

4 Dec

The curving edges of Wilpena Pound, a gigantic geological depression.
Weather doesn’t get more biblical than droughts, floods and plagues of locusts. And that precise trifecta has hit the South Australian outback this summer.

The great salt lakes, which sit dry for decades on end as brilliant mirrors of pinkish white, oscillate between aggressive blue and muted brown. The impossibly ancient mountains have turned from the iconic outback red to green.

In fact, looking out from the ridgetops of the Flinders Ranges, it’s easy to see how the ridiculed explorer turned prescient surveyor, George Goyder, decided the mountains were ringed by an enormous inland sea.

It’s easier still to pity the poor sods who slogged in his wake through almost a thousand kilometres of spiky acacia, spiny wattle and savage spinifex, amid flies so persistent that the diagonal motion of the hand in front of the face to clear them away for a second or two is known as “the Aussie salute”, carrying (yes, carrying) a wooden boat to traverse the imaginary sea… Continue reading

A Little Adrenaline

24 Nov

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]From terrifying, world class surf breaks at Ulu Watu to the beginner-friendly swells on Kuta Beach, from one of the world’s easiest and most satisfying wreck dives at Tulamben to high-adrenaline drift dives amid lethal currents off Gili Selang, Bali packs a lot of adrenaline into a very compact island…

I’ll be posting a lot, lot more about Bali (including some great dive sites) once we return there in January. After almost three months in Indonesia, we’d barely scratched the surface, so rather than heading for Latin America we’re going back to the archipelago, thence to China, Nepal and India by way of Laos… But more on that later.

Still, if you like a little adrenaline, without the ocean channel risk to life and limb, read on for probably the best waterpark in South-East Asia, rafting down 12km of almost constant white water, and a chance to leap through the trees, zipwire, balance and Tarzan swing up to 30m above the ground. Oh, yeah, and a gorgeous double waterfall with enticing rope swing too. Continue reading

Heaven and Hell on Wheels…

6 Nov

Bali. One of the most consistently beautiful places on the planet. With (outside the timelessly international package hell of Kuta) a culture that is beyond unique. Landscapes of misty mountains, stepped rice terraces, river gorges fringed with palms and broad banana leaves, stone-carved temples everywhere you look, and pavements littered with offerings lovingly hand-crafted from palm leaves, flowers and coloured rice.

Snacks for the angels, demons, gods and goddesses that are everywhere, even today.

This is a place where you can stop for petrol and find yourself overlooking an ancient royal palace built in brick and stone with views across to dark forest and crater lakes and down a staircase of young rice to a river gorge. So, for the driver, it’s almost exactly equidistant between heaven and hell. Continue reading

That Rockstar Feeling

25 Oct

Z's face cropped against sea background

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We saw some amazing things from the roof of the slow boat the other day.

Flying fish. Not just the big, silvery ones, threading running stitch across the sea like giant needles. But little dark critters, gliding low, low over the wavelets like flocks of aquatic sparrows, slender wing-fins carrying them for as much as a hundred metres before they splash into water which seems –- well, quite the wrong element for them.

No dolphins or turtles, this time, though on every other boat journey around Maluku we’ve seen one or t’other.

But, here, just north of the equator, an entire pod of killer whales, soaring and playful as dolphins, their giant dorsal fins pincushioning the water, gigantic black and white shadows sliding under the boat, hissing mushroomy fountains of spray…

Photo opportunities aplenty (had one a camera). And our fellow passengers had their mobile phones out in force, shooting for an entire hour.

Their subject, gentle reader? Not the wildlife. Ten a penny here.

But us… Continue reading

The King of the District: Part 1

21 Oct

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false] Governor Hain’s people pick us up early. 9.30pm, not 10.

It’s a big, slick, maroon people-carrier, a Toyota, I think, not quite as pristine as his personal vehicle, but it stands out a mile among the motor-rickshaws, scooters and mikrolet on the streets of Tobelo, Halmahera.

They call him the King of North Halmahera, Hain. He’s run the top of the island for the last decade and now he’s heading into his third term. There are two books on him in print: one sixth of the population of the capital, or thereabouts, will turn out for his (long-planned) reelection party.

But we’re not here to talk politics. We’re here, sitting in the back of this big, slick car, trundling through the dark, to meet the Moro, the long-vanished ancestors of all nineteen tribes on Halmahera. Continue reading

In Which We Dive an Undersea Volcano

17 Oct tendrilly fan corals in scarlet and orange off halmahera, indonesia

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Indonesia is not, let us say, short on dive sites.

And, when you can snorkel with giant manta rays, turtles and jellyfish defanged by evolution off Pulau Derawan in Borneo and see pretty much all the Togian islands have to offer (bar the plane) without fronting up for cylinders and BCD, it makes sense for any traveler with more time than money to be a little picky about where they actually dive.

An active undersea volcano, fringed with bright corals, falls well into the “yep, I’ll dive that!” category. One of almost 50 newly catalogued dive sites off Halmahera in East Indonesia, it nestles just offshore from Galela, only a couple of hours by dive boat from Tobelo.

The pure black sand beach, glittering with shards of mother of pearl, fringed by coconut palms and encircled by rocky coves full of lobsters, submarine hot springs and coral means there’s plenty for snorkellers too.

But descending into the crater itself? Wow! Continue reading

A Country Wedding

9 Oct

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false] In the dirt yard, by the family sleeping platform her family have built outside their government-built wooden house, Biasri, eighteen years old and five months gone, stands pounding rice in a ripped and muddy T-shirt draped over a little red skirt, her hair pulled back.

She’s preparing cakes for her wedding. It might happen today.

More likely tomorrow, now. Or possibly the day after. She’s not concerned, though. It’s jungle time. Continue reading

Tales from the Moluccas #3: Ibilihi’s Nutmeg

4 Oct

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We pick up Ibilihi from his home on a narrow strand of yellow beach, backed by jungle sprouting out of coral cliffs, where he lives with his second wife and her disabled child, on a four by six sleeping platform with a fanpalm roof and a lower shelf for food and guests.

Skulls of deer and wild pig accumulate under a palm with split coconut shells, a midden for future archaeologists like the scallop shell mound we saw on Mariquit in the Philippines. There’s some scrappy cassava, a couple of coconut palms, some banana, but essentially, Ibilihi likes to live off the land.

The walking, breathing epitome of dour, Ibilihi is from the Togutil tribal minority. He’ll be one of our guides to the jungle of Eastern Halmahera, where we are going in quest of those of his people who still live as nomads, hunting and gathering in the forests. Continue reading

Machete Lessons for Beginners

3 Oct

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]It would be fair to say that watching one’s nine-year-old son improve his machete skills while 8-12 hours from *any* form of medical care, however basic, is not a relaxing activity.

And indeed, a perhaps unnecessarily large number of utterances such as, “Christ, Z, AWAY from your fingers, not towards them,” and, “F***sake, darling, do you really need to take such a big swing? Remember when the blade flew off in Laos?” have echoed through the jungles of Halmahera of late. Continue reading