Thursday, 31 August 2017

A documentary and 2 more podcasts about Reunion

For my third podcast recording session* I recorded two episodes:

- the first was entitled 'What A Waste' and I talk about an unusual visit I made for World Water Way on 22nd April.

The second is called 'Dirty Weekend' and I recount an eventful hike I made a few years ago to Marla in Mafate, when everything that could have gone wrong did!

* For more explanations about why I'm recording podcasts see here and here. The podcasts are organised by the team at, and video recording for these podcasts took place in the studio of O'tv La Réunion. Here I am in front of the green screen:

A University of Reunion Island documentary about Barau's petrels which I translated and voiced was also made available on Youtube this month. Called "Taille-vent, the mountain petrel", it tells the story of this endangered species and the conservation work involved in protecting it.

More viewing/listening:

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Queensland & NSW coast

We flew from Sydney to Cairns, in northern Queensland for the next part of our trip. Most parts of Australia that I'd already seen are quite flat, so it was quite surprising to see so many hills in the area surrounding Cairns. There's not an enormous amount to see in the town itself and on the first afternoon we headed out to Fitzroy Island, about 30 km south-east of Cairns. We'd been told we could dive there, however visibility was pretty bad and the organiser had forgotten weight belts so in the end we gave up. Fortunately our other dives in Queensland went much better (see more about them here)!

Fitzroy Island

Cairns has an extensive foreshore promenade, however you're not allowed to swim in the sea there due to risk of crocodile attacks. Between November and late April there's also a risk of being fatally stung by jellyfish, and the rashguards rented by companies that offer snorkelling excursions tend cover the whole body.

sign at Cairns waterfront warning of the risk of crocodile attacks

After spending a day diving on the Great Barrier Reef, we took possession of the camping car we'd rented for the next ten days, and started to head south.

our camping car in Queensland

Due to the tropical climate there's quite a lot of sugar cane cultivation, like Reunion. However unlike the enormous lorries in Reunion that carry the sugar from weighing station to factory, in Queensland small - but very long - trains are used.

a train carrying sugar cane crossing the road 

a train carrying sugar cane crossing the road

a very long sugar cane train in Ingham, Queensland 

controlled sugar cane field fire, near Ayr, Queensland

After stopping at Alva Beach near Ayr to dive the Yongala, our next stop was Bowen, well known for its mangoes, and home of two giant mangoes.

the 'little' mango, Bowen

the 'big' mango, Bowen

Our next stop was in Rockhampton, in Central Queensland, and as it was a Friday evening we found ourselves at the Great Western Hotel (established in 1862), where a bull riding event was taking place. Apparently every Wednesday and Friday you can eat dinner and watch the bull riding at the same time.

bull riding, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton 

As we hadn't been aware of the event we hadn't booked a ringside table and would have ended up sitting inside, however an Australian couple we'd got talking to in the queue while waiting to pay for our food very kindly suggested we share their (ringside) table, so we got to see the bull riding up close.

bull riding, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton 

bull riding, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton 

Rockhampton promotes itself as the 'Beef Capital of Australia' (see further below) and the Great Western Hotel is apparently the only place in the world outside of Texas where you have a bull riding arena incorporated into a hotel and restaurant.

bull riding, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton 

bull riding, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton 

The next morning shortly after leaving Rockhampton we stopped at the sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn, latitude 23° 27' 30"S. (The last place we'd been at such a sign was in Namibia, about 18 months previously). The Tropic of Capricorn is the the southernmost latitude at which the sun reaches its zenith. This happens only once each year on the summer solstice (about 22nd December).

Tropic of Capricorn, Queensland

In Roman mythology Capricornus was the sea goat into which Pan was changed to escape from the terrible giant Typhon. It's also the name given to the constellation resembling it, and when the December solstice was first observed the sun was situated in this constellation, hence the tropic was named Capricorn.

Tropic of Capricorn, Queensland

Kigelia (aka Sausage tree)
lunch stop

Our next overnight stop was at the unusually-named locality of Seventeen Seventy in the Gladstone region of Queensland, built on the site of the second landing in Australia by James Cook and the crew of HMS Endeavour in May 1770 (this was Cook's first landing in what is now the state of Queensland).

Memorial marking Cook's landing at Seventeen Seventy
(lee = downwind, or downward)

sunset at Seventeen Seventy

wild echnida seen at Seventeen Seventy
After the big mangoes came the big bottle of rum! We stopped at the Bundaberg distillery, but didn't take the tour as it's something we've already done in Reunion more than once.

outside the Bundaberg distillery 

Nearby is Maryborough, famous as the birthplace of PL Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books. 

Mary Poppins statue, Maryborough

After diving at Wolf Rock off Rainbow Beach, our next stop was at Glass House Mountains, on the Sunshine Coast about one hour north of Brisbane. These 'mountains' (the highest is 556 metres) are a group of 13 hills that rise abruptly from the coastal plain. The modern non-Aboriginal name was given by Captain Cook as the peaks reminded him of the glass furnaces in his home county of Yorkshire.

Glass House Mountains 

We then had lunch and took a walk in the nearby Mary Cairncross Reserve, a conservation park where there is sub-tropical rain forest as well as good views of the Glass House Mountains.

at Mary Cairncross reserve
bird in Mary Cairncross reserve 
bird in Mary Cairncross reserve

We then arrived in Brisbane, which was to be our home for the next five nights as I was attending a professional conference there. We visited the city on the first day before my 3-day conference started on August 3rd. Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland, and the third largest destination in Australia.

ANZAC Square, Brisbane 

Post Office square, Brisbane 

City Botanic Gardens, Brisbane

In the City Botanic Gardens (not to be confused with Brisbane Botanic Gardens) we came across a Yellow Strawberry Guava (psidium cattleianum var. lucidum) that had been planted in 1854 and is now so old it needed support to stay upright!

goyavier jaune in need of support, Brisbane Botanic Gardens 

City centre seen from across the Brisbane river 

view of Brisbane

At the start of the conference I got to see a Welcome to Country ritual ceremony that is often performed at many events held in Australia to highlight the cultural significance of the surrounding area to a particular Aboriginal clan or language group. Indigenous Australians are believed to have lived in coastal south-east Queensland for 32,000 years, with an estimated population between 6,000 and 20,000 individuals before white settlement

Welcome to Country ritual

On the first evening of the conference we also got to do a 'showboat' cruise on the Brisbane River.

Kookaburra evening cruise on the Brisbane River 
After leaving Brisbane we then hired a car and headed down to Sydney over the course of three days, along the New South Wales coast. Our first stop was at Cape Byron, the most easterly point on the Australian mainland. (The name comes from John Byron, a renowned navigator in the 1760s and grandfather of the poet Lord Byron). 

Tallow Beach, Cape Bryon 

As August is whale season (like in Reunion), we got to see plenty of pods of migrating humpbacks.

whales off Cape Byron

whale off Cape Byron

the sign says it all!

Cape Byron lighthouse was built in 1901 and is an easily recognisable local landmark.

Cape Byron lighthouse

Cape Byron

Near Port Macquarie we finally managed to see koalas in the wild!

koala in the wild, Port Macquarie

But we also visited the nearby Koala Hospital to see some more.

koala at the koala hospital 

To get to our accommodation at Tea Gardens, further down the coast, we took a tiny ferry at Myall Lakes National Park. As it was early evening and there was a full moon it was quite atmospheric.

ferry across Boolambayte Creek

moonrise and pelican, Boolambayte Creek

Our final stop before reaching Sydney was at Newcastle, the largest coal export harbour in the world. The Newcastle metropolitan area is is the second most populated area in New South Wales.

view of Newcastle, NSW from the top of Queen's Wharf Tower (30m high)

Then it was back to Sydney for one more night before flying cross-country to Perth, and then finally back to Reunion via Mauritius.

Manly Beach, Sydney

See also: