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WPC Favourites

So, the WordPress powers-that-be are shutting down the Weekly Photo Challenge, and for the final instalment we are invited to share our favourite photo. I can’t possibly choose one from among my thousands of photos, so I’ve gone for a collection of faves from my own Weekly Photo Challenge posts (my first was in August 2013). I’d actually forgotten about a lot of the photos I’ve posted over the years!

Like many other WordPress bloggers whose comments I’ve read, I can’t understand why the WPC is ending. It’s been a successful vehicle for fostering engagement and sharing, and I’ve met many talented and interesting people around the world via it. To close the WPC will surely make us all a bit more insular. The official explanation — “we’ll be focusing our attention on other projects that help WordPress.com remain the best place on the web to publish, build an audience, and find a community” — rather interestingly ignores the fact that the Weekly Photo Challenge DOES (whoops, DID!) build audiences and communities.

It was fun while it lasted.

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Anzac Day 2018

Floral tributes at the cenotaph, Martin Place.

Yesterday (25 April) was Anzac Day in Australia. Ceremonies are held across the country at dawn and throughout the day.


A poppy on a gun.

Cenotaph sculpture and Australian flag, Martin Place.

There are parades too, of veterans and serving military personnel, and family. And bands, of course. The “massed pipe bands” march past is always a crowd pleaser.

What did we ever do without camera phones?

Snap!

Something that strikes me about these bands is their make-up. Old and young, male and female, military and civilian, they all come together as one. I think you can really see that in these next two photos.

Old and young, male and female, military and civilian.

Old and young, male and female, military and civilian.

The particular band that I know (through a friend) is the Sydney Thistle Highland Pipe Band. They played at a separate ceremony in Martin Place at 12:30pm.

Friends and family often join them after the official proceedings, as the band visits a few pubs for some well deserved refreshment. They play at the pubs, too, which always draws a crowd!

There’s a pipe and drum band behind that crowd!

Bagpipes in a pub window.

The band is 100 years old this year.

100 years of piping, drumming and marching.

I have other Anzac Day posts here.

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La Perouse Headland Walk

This walk in the area around La Perouse (a southern suburb of Sydney) starts in the Botany Bay National Park. (If you’ve ever flown in or out of Sydney, you’ll know Botany Bay — it’s the large body of water that the runways jut into.) The walk is only about 5km long, and not difficult. I think you could call it a stroll, in fact. It begins in typical forest in the national park.

According to the signpost, I’m headed in the right direction for Henry Head and Cape Banks. That’s reassuring. 🙂

On track

At Henry Head there is an old artillery battery. “Constructed between 1892 and 1895 with two BL 6-inch Mk V disappearing guns, the fort operated until 1910, when it became obsolete. The battery along with two 6-in gun emplacements and observation posts was re-utilised during World War II to defend the approaches to Botany Bay. During WWII, it was armed with two 18-pounder Mk IV field guns and two QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns. The underground bunker and tunnel complex consisted of vaulted ammunition storage rooms with double walls and ceilings. The doubling up of walls and ceilings was a preventative measure meant to stop the walls from collapsing in the event of a direct hit.” (source)

Covered with graffiti now (of course) they still reveal how strategic their position was, covering the entrance to Botany Bay.

There were hundreds of birds, huge flocks of them darting swiftly in the sky and keeping up a constant chorus of tweets and chirps. In the first photo, the black-and-white bird at bottom right is a New Holland Honeyeater. The other bird, a sort of brown with striking yellow, I’d never seen before, which surprised me given their sheer numbers here.

Is a bird in hand really worth two in a bush?

An online search revealed that the mystery bird might be a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Here’s another one, with a definite yellow face.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater?

Lunch with a view!

Water, orange, egg sandwich — and a view.

Henry Head was as far as I’d intended to go, as I wanted to visit the La Perouse Museum and I knew it closed at 4pm. But sitting here having my lunch, I thought how enticing that path snaking out towards the far cape was … so off I went.

Who could resist?

Follow the path.

I know we’re not “doing” benches any more, but I had to snap this one. It’s made of the same heavy metal mesh as the walkway! (And is not especially comfortable.)

No place to linger.

If you’ve read my previous walks, you’ll know I’m not a fan of stairs. However, I hate sand even more. Especially going uphill in sand.

Sandy path, uphill.

And now for something completely different! You round a corner and suddenly there’s a golf course.

She is NOT a walker.

This is hole 6 (par 3) of the New South Wales Golf Course, officially opened in 1928. According to its website, “Golf Digest currently ranks the NSW Golf Club as the No. 9 golf course outside the United States and the No.1 golf course outside the United States and the UK.” Click this photo to see a larger version of hole 6 with the tees marked — the men’s, the ladies’, and what I’ve dubbed the maniacs’ tee.

Hole 6, NSW Golf Club.

This is the same hole, looking at the flag (circled) from the maniacs’ tee. They must lose an awful lot of balls in the sea here!

You’d better have a spare ball or three for this hole.

Sound advice on this sign, especially given that the golfer is in mid-swing.

Fore!

This footbridge (you can just make it out in the first photo of the sixth hole, and more clearly in the larger photo) leads to Cape Banks, presumably named after (Sir) Joseph Banks, the botanist/naturalist on Captain James Cook’s voyage of 1768-1771. They landed at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770; Cook writes that he named it so due to “The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place”. (source)

Footbridge to Cape Banks.

No more time for dawdling, that 4pm museum closing time was looming, so I hot-footed back along the trail. I paused at Congwong beach to take a photo looking back at where I’d been. The circled white dot on the headland is the white tower visible in the gun emplacements photos farther up this page.

Looking back.

I know what you’re thinking. What is this “La Perouse” I keep referring to?? Why would anywhere in Australia have a French name? The area is named after Jean-François de Galaup, comte [count] de Lapérouse, who commanded a convoy of two French ships that sailed into Botany Bay in January 1788, only days after the English First Fleet had arrived to establish the penal colony that became Sydney. After leaving Botany Bay six weeks later, La Perouse and his ships were never seen again. (What happened to the French ships? In 1826 evidence was found indicating they foundered on reefs in the Solomon Islands. Some survivors were killed by local inhabitants; some built a ship from the wreckage and sailed away, but their fate is unknown.) (source)

This monument was erected in the area where the French camped. It’s the focal point for gatherings by French expats on Bastille Day.

And here’s the museum! It features displays and artefacts about the area and the early visits from the French and English visits, heavily weighted towards the La Perouse expedition naturally. The museum is housed in the historic Cable Station building, completed in 1882. When telegraph operations transferred elsewhere in 1913, the building was subsequently used for telegraph company staff accommodation quarters, a nurses’ home, soldier accommodation, and a Salvation Army Refuge.

La Perouse museum

This improbable looking construction is the Macquarie Watchtower, also known as the Barrack Tower, built around 1821. Originally a military station, it later became a customs post and housed a schoolroom. It subsequently fell into disrepair, was mostly destroyed by fire in 1957 and restored from 1961.

Watchtower

No luscious ice cream to finish off this walk, I’m afraid. Maybe next time!

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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A night at the opera 3: La Bohème

I don’t know when Opera on the Harbour began, but the first one I saw was La Traviata in 2012. I’ve waited for my favourite opera, La Bohème, to be performed, and this is the year! I have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather when I’ve gone, and this night was simply perfect.

Here’s the site as seen from the Botanic Gardens. Rather stark, isn’t it? It’s also where the open air cinema is held, although that infrastructure comes down and new goes up.

Pity about the plastic glasses, but I can understand why they’re necessary.

A chilled bubbly and a warm evening, what more is needed?

There are a few food and drink outlets on site.

The Garden Bar.

North Terrace.

A skeletal view of the stage.

From this angle, with nothing of Sydney visible, you could almost believe this is indeed a snowy street in Paris.

You’d almost think the Seine was beyond the railings.

The stage, Act 1. I often think what a marvellous job stage/set design would be.

Lights, action!

Rudolfo and Mimi met 10 minutes ago, but in true opera fashion they declare their undying love.

“Tell me you love me!” “I love you.”

Act 2 features a toy seller named Parpignol, who makes an impressive entry below a number of balloons. In this shot, against the dark city, you can’t see the crane from which he is suspended.

“Here is Parpignol! I want the horn, the toy horse!”

It’s Sydney, it’s a spectacle, it’s the harbour — there’s gonna be fireworks. I can hear them from my apartment at Bondi Beach at 8:25 each evening.

End of Act 2.

The opera was written in 1895, but this staging is set in the 1960s. I never am comfortable with these attempts to modernise opera. It sort of works — I get the rebellious student thing, the free and easy lifestyle — but the references to viscounts and muffs just don’t ring true in 1960.

I did not expect a burning car, but I’m very impressed at how they did it.

Act 4, and everything is coming to a close. Mimi is very ill, the group of friends is very poor, and Colline makes the ultimate sacrifice — he sells his beloved overcoat to buy medicine. One of my favourite passages.

“I bid you farewell, faithful old friend.”

Few heroines survive to the end of an opera, and Mimi is no exception.

“Mimì! Mimì! Mimì!”

An arty shot of spotlights and lamp to finish off.

You can also see my photos from previous Opera on the Harbour productions of Aida and Madame Butterfly.

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Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf Walk

Walk map — click for a larger image.

Known simply as “The Spit to Manly”, this is one of Sydney’s best known and most popular walks. About 10km long, it weaves along the edge of the harbour, through national park and residential areas. There are stunning views and beaches in plenty, with quite a variety of terrain. “3.6km of this walk is flat with no steps and another 3km has short steep hills. The remaining (2.6km) has gentle hills with occasional steps.” (source)

The Spit Bridge, where this walk starts, opens at set times throughout the day to let boats pass. You can just make out a sailboat passing through (more visible on the full image). I’d like to say that I timed my walk to take this photo for you, but in truth it was luck. 😉

After the bridge, you soon reach the bottom of this small inlet. It’s clear that the tide is well out, which is a good thing as you’ll learn later.

Small cove, tide out.

Dappled shade on the path and a bridge over a stream.

A shady path through the woods.

Here be dragons — Eastern Water Dragons, to be precise.

He’s a handsome devil, and knows it!

It would be extremely unusual to do this walk and not encounter a number of these reptiles sunning themselves on the path. Generally, though, you only notice them in the heart-lurching moment when a streak of movement at your feet is followed by a crashing and a rustling in the undergrowth as it dashes for safety.

 

In addition to dragons, there are lots of flowers to be seen along the paths.

This is Clontarf Beach and Reserve. On the weekend it’s standing room only, full of large groups with blankets and picnics. I did the walk on this occasion on the Thursday before Good Friday (29 March), so beaches and the walk itself were quite empty.

What sort of crazy person attacks trees? All the trees in the reserve have these wooden girdles to protect them.

Anti-tree-vandal measures at Clontarf.

Time for some beach walking! If you have a towel, or the time to relax while the sun dries your feet, this is a great stretch for splashing along in the water.

Fancy a paddle?

Remember I said earlier that it’s a good thing the tide is out? Look at the dark strip along the bottom of the stone walls in front of these houses — that’s where the water reaches. That’s more than a mere paddle.

More than your feet would get wet here!

No, I haven’t snuck in a photo from a walk in England! We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently, so there were a few wet patches.

It rains in Sydney too. Quite a bit, actually.

There are many plaques describing various plants along the way.

Typical steps carved into the rocks.

Your own private beach.

A lovely stretch of Sydney harbour all to yourself.

The entry to the national park section of the walk. Some years ago, a friend from England came to visit and we did this walk — or tried to! We got as far as this point. The national park segment was closed due to high fire danger. We considered risking it, but didn’t fancy being fined by a lurking park ranger!

Park entrance.

Up, and up …

It would be hard to get lost!

Which way now?

Still up. Many of the light-coloured stone stairs you’ll see in these photos were recently (in the past 8 years?) installed. The parks service undertook substantial work to reduce erosion and damage due to the thousands of walkers. You’ll notice too that we’re no longer in forest. It’s much more open up on the ridgeline.

Up. Always up.

And this is what all the climbing was for! The walk has taken us from sea level to 88m (288ft). That’s South Head across the harbour, then the next land is Chile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

The harbour, South Head, the ocean.

Woo hoo, it’s the beginning of the boardwalk! (This is also recent.) The boardwalk means one thing: the lunch stop is not far.

Along the boardwalk.

Ta da, the lunch stop! It’s just a rock outcrop a few metres off the path. It was much more hidden when I first started coming here (around 2000), but fire or some other event has thinned out the trees. After all that climbing, the shade and the sea breeze are very welcome.

My lunch rock.

Lunch! Sandwich, plum, water. The Aussie term “Tasty Cheese” (on the sandwich label) always cracks me up. It’s similar to a medium cheddar and, yes, is tasty, but what a name! And what a view! Did you notice the gorgeous colour of the water in the cove below? Opposite is North Head, and just to its left is the former Quarantine Station where immigrants were forced to spend some time upon arrival so that medical staff could check their condition. Today, predictably, it’s an expensive hotel called Q Station.

A “tasty” lunch.

Back on the path, and past the halfway mark now.

On the way to Manly, more than halfway.

Now here is something I had never seen on this walk. A wallaby! I rounded a corner and there it was, practically in the middle of the path. It stared at me, I stared at it, and I said, “Whoa! A kangaroo!” Perhaps insulted at being mistaken for a kangaroo, the wallaby hopped into the bush. It didn’t go far though, and soon settled down to nibbling at shrubs.

I always think of this spot as the beginning of the end. There are still kilometres to go, but soon we’ll be out of the bush and onto the streets, and this is the last great view. It’s all (almost) downhill or level from here. This panorama is two photos merged in Photoshop. (Click for a much larger shot.) To right of centre you can see the broad path to follow. Opposite is North Head and the old quarantine site, then around to the left is Manly and the ferry wharf, my destination.

A panoramic view. (Click for a much larger shot.)

This sign has been here at least as long as I’ve been doing this walk (since 2000). When, I wonder, will the area officially be regenerated?

How long does regeneration take?

Reef Beach, a lovely spot for a swim. And I have never seen it deserted! Unfortunately, because doing this walk was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I wasn’t at home to pack swimsuit and towel. So I had to gaze at the water longingly and walk past.

So inviting …

The approach to 40 Baskets Beach is another impassable area at high tide. The name “40 Baskets” derives from a time in 1885 when fisherman caught — you’ve guessed it — 40 baskets of fish in the area.

Lots of rockpools to peer into.

You don’t see these flowers in the national park! This is bouganvillea and tibuchina in a garden.

Hot cerise bougainvillea and deep purple tibouchina.

This commemorative plaque is hidden in a rock, in the shade, at the foot of stairs (more bloody stairs!), and is easily overlooked.

Commemorative plaque.

A very pleasant section now of strolling along a meandering paved path, with towering and expensive homes to the left, and the harbour to the right. One of the homes is for sale — how much would you pay for that view?

The killer view.

Another nice place to swim, which today is both unusually calm and unusually deserted. No swimsuit, though, so on we go …

Still inviting …

There is, apparently, a thriving colony of Little Penguins in this area. I’ve never seen one, but then again I’d never seen a wallaby on the walk until today.

Watch out, penguins about.

The end is nigh! The large yellow-and-green ship is the Manly-Circular Quay ferry. I’m getting a much smaller boat though, to take me across the harbour to Watson’s Bay, from where I’ll get a bus to Bondi Beach and home.

The end of the walk.

Made it, with only 10 minutes to spare. I’d planned to enjoy a well-deserved icy cold beverage at this bar while waiting for the ferry (that’s what the small crowd of people at the end of the wharf is doing) but all this photography took longer than I’d planned.

My ferry wharf.

At Watson’s Bay, there was just enough time before the bus arrived for a quick lime and coconut ice cream. Very refreshing!

Lime and coconut ice cream.

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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