Holiday Activities in Melbourne.

Ohi ohi ohi ohi, I’m in love with your body, blasts from of the car radio. The windows are down, the chorus line repeats as the kids burst into harmony. I raise the volume, the crescendo builds and I join in. Come on be my baby come on. The energy of the kids is infectious on this glorious autumn day.

Pelicans, not so uncommon, but always loved.

We’re off to Melbourne Zoo. I’m keen to keep the costs down as school holiday activities can often blow the budget, especially given that Melbourne is such an expensive city. Children receive free admission to the Melbourne Zoo ( as well as at Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee open range zoo) on weekends, public holidays and Victorian School holidays. It’s a good time to go but expect it to be more crowded than usual. Tickets for adults cost between $25- 30. Adult tickets can be purchased online, saving the need to queue at the gate.

Haloumi pies from the A1 Bakery, Brunswick. $3 each.

First stop is early lunch in Brunswick. The kidlets love Lebanese Haloumi cheese pies from the A1 Bakery. Patrons help themselves to large bottles of chilled water and glasses. The children know that any request for sugar drinks will be met with a stern glare. They carry their water bottles when out on a trip: most venues in Melbourne offer water bottle refilling stations, including the zoo.

We park in Brunswick close to the Upfield train line. A few stops down the track is Royal Park Station, a dedicated zoo station and the best way to go. Kids find the train journey as fascinating as the zoo itself. The ever-changing graffiti along the route keeps them amused. If travelling with kids, make sure to purchase a children’s concession MYKI travel card at a staffed station before your trip. Most un- staffed stations have machines to top up your cards, but don’t issue new passes for children, seniors or anyone eligible for a concession.

Orangutan, Melbourne

On the train, we plan our adventure together. Each child nominates one enclosure they would like to see. Melbourne Zoo is huge and as we usually go there once a year, it’s important to make a plan before you go. They agreed on the following: baboons and orangutans, seals and penguins, elephants, butterflies, and tigers. Of course, en route, a few extra characters caught our attention.

Melbourne Zoo’s Giraffes

The 8-year-old was put in charge of the map and leadership for the day. They take turns with this task each year.

Ollie is in charge of the map.

One of the more impressive features of Melbourne zoo is the dense jungle planting near the elephant and tiger park. Over the years it has developed its own micro climate. The area has recreated an Indonesian village, with signs above shaded picnic tables in Bahasa Indonesian, Indonesian artifacts and dense forest planting.

The Butterfly enclosure is enormously popular. I managed to grab a seat inside and while the butterflies were lovely, I was more interested in the human reaction to them. People noticeably changed as they entered. Smiling, serene faces filled the space as old men, babies and children gazed upwards, all delighted. I enjoyed observing a three-month old baby almost leaping out of her pram- her eyes amazed and bewildered by the butterflies above. It’s very humid and close inside, but no one is in a rush and the atmosphere is hushed.

Butterfly enclosure

The zoo staff are active in promoting environmental messages about changing shopping behaviours to conserve habitat. The kids signed a petition to ban balloons from their birthday parties and received a fridge magnet to remind them.

‘Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves to death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat.’¹

Display near the penguin and seal enclosure
Penguins, Melbourne Zoo

The other strong message concerned the massive increase in the use of palm oil and its effect on habitat. A display of common supermarket items, ranging from Lindt chocolate to chips, biscuits, soaps and shampoos, made it clear to kids what products contain palm oil.

‘To make room for palm crops, huge areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems where conservation is important are being stripped bare. Critical habitat for orangutans and many endangered species – including rhinos, elephants and tigers – has been destroyed. Forest-dwelling people lose their land, local communities are negatively affected.’²

Many products containing palm oil are disguised with labels such as vegetable oil, sodium laurel sulphate, glyceryl, to name a few.

This display had a profound affect on me and the older children eventually got the connection.

Elephants, Melbourne zoo.

Costs per child: Melbourne Zoo, free. Haloumi pies, $3 pp, icypole $3pp. Train fare $2.10 pp. Total per child, AU$9.10 plus adult costs.

¹ https://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

² http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-agriculture/25-sneaky-names-palm-oil.html

Butterflies, Melbourne Zoo

A Walk in the Daintree Rainforest

The tropical Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia is one of the most complex on Earth. Its plant diversity and structural complexity is unrivalled on the Australian continent. Descendants of plant life can be found today with many of their ancestors’ primitive characteristics, some dating back 110 million years. Carefully designed walkways through the forest enable the visitor to enjoy this diversity, to see plant life transmogrify, evolve, die, smother, climb, submerge, compete, rot, and re-emerge within this unique UNESCO world Heritage site.
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Soap Box Saturday: Change

Notice the rooftops of these apartment buildings in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. They are covered in solar hot water units.

Kunming rooftops.
Kunming rooftops.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the ways in which the Chinese are embracing change: in fact, Kunming’s initiatives in the solar industry field made a huge impact on me. It removed all those stereotypical views one might hold about China, overcrowding and pollution. They are working on change at a rapid rate.

Australia is a land of plentiful sunshine whose political leaders are backward in accepting change. This happens at the Federal, State and local government level. All have their heads in the sand, even those who purport to be Green. Our local councils could be leaders in change, by insisting that all new inner city developments and apartment blocks include solar features.

Solar Power in Kunming
Solar Power in Kunming

In the photo below, the dedicated motorbike and bike lane is sectioned off from the other traffic. I wandered down these wide boulevards and was not aware of the any motorbike noise or pollution: I then observed that they were all electric.

Orderly traffic in the centre of the city: electrric bikes, buses
Orderly traffic in the centre of the city: electric bikes, buses

 Worth quoting from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunming#Solar_energy

In July 2008, Kunming began to implement a program to transform the city’s solar energy industry into a US$8.8 billion industrial base in China by 2013. Kunming receives an annual average sunshine of more than 2,400 hours. Each 1 kW PV system has the potential to generate 1500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year from solar energy.

The government plans to put in place policies (low-interest loans, tax exemption and other concessions or subsidies) and a fund to encourage private sector participation in the city’s solar energy-based infrastructure development. The fund, which will be included in the municipal government’s annual budget, will particularly finance LED for public lighting, solar projects, and the propagation of energy saving projects.

As of 2007, the Kunming Economic Committee listed about 130 solar energy enterprises in the city. Of these, 118 enterprises produce solar lamps and solar water heaters, with a combined total production value of about US$43.8 million, and 10 enterprises are engaged in solar photovoltaic cells manufacturing, with a total production value of about US$51.2 million.

Sea grasses, Great Barrier Reef

Under the sea, grass sways like a hula skirt around a giant clam. The underwater gardens of the Mackay Reef, off Cape Tribulation, in Far North Queensland, Australia are a natural wonderland. Global warming, the crown of thorns star fish invasion and coal mining, with its associated dredging and dumping off the coast, are the main threats to their survival.

Photo. Tranquillo Morgan.
Photo by Tranquillo Morgan.

The Great Barrier Reef risks being downgraded to a ‘World Heritage Site in danger’, thanks to the short sightedness of the current Australian Government. Despite warnings from UNESCO, a mega port development has been approved for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coal port. The process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.¹

¹ Extracted from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_threats_to_the_Great_Barrier_Reef

Butterfly, Symbol of the Deaf

Butterflies have come to symbolise deafness in Australia, as butterflies can’t hear, are silent, but feel through vibrations. The Deafness Foundation and other organisations associated with the Deaf adopt a butterfly badge as their logo.

Rainforest butterfly, Magnetic Island, Queensland.
Rainforest butterfly, Magnetic Island, Queensland.

There are 385 species of butterfly in Australia, with 70% living in the rainforests of the wet tropics. The largest threat to the butterflies is loss of habitat.

Magnetic Island Butterfly
Magnetic Island Butterfly

Narrow bush tracks meander through the dense rainforest on Magnetic Island, North Queensland, Australia. Colourful butterflies flock to patches of light, blue and iridescent green wings lighting the way.

For Jack and Leanne.

Captain Cook’s Very Bad Day

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation on a warm, stormy day.

Captain Cook, navigator and explorer, came up with some atrocious names for the spots he ‘discovered’ and mapped along the east coast of Australia. Many were named after jumped up lords, earls, and the odd prince, many of whom were dissolute and pompous members of the British aristocracy of the day.¹ Cook, the son of a farmer and once shopkeeper, was a self-made man and capitano, so was probably in awe of this lot, or was currying favour.

strangler fig on host mahogany tree
Strangler fig on host Mahogany tree

Other spots on the map were given sad, desolate names reflecting the way James felt at the time. Cape Tribulation and the nearby Mt Sorrow are two of these. As his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground on a coral reef midst this dazzling wonderland, the Great Barrier Reef, he was stuck for 46 days as repairs were carried out in nearby Cooktown.  After he cursed and cussed, he named the area Cape Tribulation “because here began all our Troubles”.

Those of you who have visited the rainforest area around Cape Tribulation would not have experienced much sorrow, unless confronted by an ominous crocodile, or pestered by the incessant sand flies and mosquitoes. Dense rainforest fringes the ocean, the climate in the dry months is warm and the sea and its reefs offer an underworld garden of delight.

Fan Palm, Daintree, Queensland.
Fan Palm, Daintree, Queensland.

I’m sure that while Captain Cook was stressing about his boat repairs and writing his journal, the crew may have gone fishing and caught large prawns, coral trout and Barramundi, all abundant in these coral seas. Some of the crew may have gone beneath the sea to view the enchanting gardens of the reef.

Giant clam one metre wide in spaghetti grass. Mackay reef off Cape Tribulation.  Photo by Mr Tranquillo, diver of deep blue seas.
Giant clam one metre wide in spaghetti grass. Mackay reef off Cape Tribulation. Photo by Mr Tranquillo, diver of the deep blue seas.

Joseph Banks, naturalist and botanist, stole the show as he busied himself with documenting the exotic plants and flowers of the rainforest. Most of these plants and ancient trees can be seen today in the Daintree National Park, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fan palm
Fan palm, Daintree

In his later and final voyage, Captain Cook was killed by Hawaiians, his body boiled up and stripped of flesh. Another rather bad day for this captain. He was known for treating the local inhabitants badly.

plants of the daintree Rainforest, queensland, Australia
Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia

¹ Some place names in Australia named by Captain Cook after 18th century aristocrats include: Temple, Cockburn, Moreton, Keppel, Palmerston, Hillsborough, Townshead, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hervey, Hawke, Stephens, Howe, Cumberland, Gloucester, Grafton, Bedford, Weymouth, York, Rockingham and Dunk.

The original aboriginal name of Dunk Island was Coonanglebah meaning ‘ the island of Peace and Plenty.’ What a lovely name indeed!

 

Leading by Example. Bali and the Plastic Problem.

Many tourists come to Bali and notice the problem of rubbish, particularly plastic. Not many of us are ready to admit that we are part of the problem. Up to the 1970s, the Balinese used banana leaves and other natural products as plates, containers, and wrapping. Most discarded waste was biodegradable, such as palm leaves, coconut shells and other fibrous matter which were composted or burnt. Mass tourism, rapid urbanisation, the rise of the plastic industry and consumerism have seen the rubbish problem explode. Tourists demand drinking water in plastic bottles: most don’t carry their own shopping bags but readily accept plastic to carry their ‘bounty’ back to guest houses, little realising that plastic litter from hotel waste bins will be burnt, exuding noxious gasses into the environment or will be dumped illegally as 75% of rubbish is not collected by any service.

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You could complain or you could become part of the solution. Sitting down over lunch today, I saw a vision of loveliness as a beautiful young Dutch woman began to clean plastic debris from the sea. She asked the owners of the warung why they only cleaned the area in front of their own business and not the sea. Like most Indonesians, they only see what is theirs, which they maintain very well through cleaning and raking daily. Anything beyond the perimeter of their own house or business is someone else’s problem.

Rather than sun baking all day on her sun lounge, she took matters into her own hands and, with found plastic bags, collected debris from the sea. Imagine if every tourist could fill two plastic bags a day?  Leading by example is a much better teacher than pointing the finger.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA