Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 5/13

Hijacking the America’s Cup

Jesus! What was going on here!

The others dropped their ice creams (in the sea - what a bloody waste!) and split into two groups. One followed the big man onto the catamaran and started handcuffing the sailors, while the other led by Ali and Rachel went to the support boat, where they started dropping anything electrical overboard as well.

“Give us your phones, now” screamed the big man.

I don’t know about the Luna Rossa team but I was shitting my brand new boxers I can tell you that.

For a moment I wondered if I should try to send a quick text off but then they remembered me and Ali came over and frisked me. I found myself regretting it wasn’t Rachel and that cheered me up - if I could think along those lines I was staying cool enough to remain ol’ Buff.

“Sorry Buff” he said, taking my battered old BB and dropping it into those crystal blue waters. “We can’t take any chances.”

For a moment I could see it glinting under the waves then it faded away, dropping towards the sea floor.

They seem very well organised, fully equip with plenty of handcuffs and everyone with their tasks. The VHF radio was removed from the RIB, together with its engine’s spark plugs, which followed my BB down to where the water was cold, dark and still. Then all the sailors together with the support crew made to strip down to shorts and t-shirts before being shepherded onto the Sunseeker.

“We mean you no harm” said the big man. “You will be taken to an isolated beach on Sardinia, where you will be released. We just want to borrow your yacht, and we need time before anyone comes looking for it.”

Was that it? Were they just really keen AC fans who had been gagging for a sail on this high tech beauty, or was there more to their plans than that?

“Now is your last chance” said Rachel to me. “If you want to find out why we want Luna Rossa you must follow us now. Otherwise you can stay with on the Sunseeker. I should warn you it will be very dangerous: we will understand if you are scared, if you’ve had enough.”

Jeez, what to do.

I watched as Ali and the others shifted their bags into Luna Rossa’s starboard hull. So there really was more to it than I guessed, and I was thinking longingly about getting back to the hotel for a shower and clean boxers when she touched me gently on the arm.

“Please stay, Buff: we need someone willing to tell our story.”

Maybe I am a sucker for a pretty face and maybe it’s because my arm is tingling all over again at the memory of that brief contact, but I said yes, and swung my legs over the side and onto the hijacked challenger for the 34th America’s Cup.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 4/13

Catching our yacht

It was quite a hike out there and it was then that something odd struck me. Why had they asked for me to bring an overnight bag on an ice cream delivery trip?

Maybe there'd been a change of plans, I thought. But it wouldn't be the end of the world to be back in my snug room that night, sending out emails, selling my photos and story to the world.

On the horizon I could see that wing, taller than a jumbo jet is wide, a sun bright dagger cutting the sky, powering Luna Rossa quicker than even a speed boat could travel, and if rumours were true they'd make it go even faster. As we approached I could see her head up to wind and furl that headsail, luffing up to a halt just by their support RIB. It was time to get the trusty old SLR out.

“Well done Buff” said Rachel, approvingly.

It was good to be appreciated, noticed even, as the others had been rather quiet on the way out, not responding to Buff’s gentle ribbing.

“Port side” said the big man, and the others lined up, a long row of Prada t-shirts, and Rachel handed each of them two ice creams, a selection of Magnums if I remember right, which they waved at the approaching yacht.

“Ice creams!” they screamed. “Sponsor refreshments!”

“Nice one” said one of the sailors, covered in sweat, for we were close enough for me to capture shots of the drops trickling - no, flowing - down his face.

“Cracking good idea” said another.

The skipper, not Francesco, but someone I didn’t recognise, did mutter something about no one telling him, but that was it. We were universally welcomed, which made the surprise all the greater when the big man leaped on-board and stuck a gun to the skipper’s head.

“No one move” he commanded. “No one use a radio or he dies, followed by everyone else!”


Monday, July 29, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 3/13

Prada Ice Creams

So with bag packed, underwear clean and newly purchased hat on my head I met Rachel and Ali as agreed, but found they were not alone. There were a half a dozen or so others, all young, tougher looking than Rachel, and like Ali either had a deep tan or had spent a long time in the Middle East, standing by a huge pile of sports bags.

I spotted they were all wearing Prada t-shirts and the name of the hush-hush sponsor became pretty clear. This could be good news as though the main show was over there were rumours their cat had some unseen tricks that had to be tested way offshore away from prying eyes. Not for long!

"This is the journalist, Mr Staysail" said Ali, and they muttered a greeting. There was this huge chap, like a hunk of beef, who just stared at me. It was a bit disconcerting to be honest.

"Call me Buff" says I.

"Buff!" said the big chap. It didn't sound welcoming, scornful even. "Buff!" He reminded me of someone, but couldn’t place who.

Then he and Ali were blabbing away in whatever lingo they were into. Looked nasty at one point but Rachel said something and that seemed to be it.

"So what's the story?" I asked. They had promised a scoop after all.

"We are delivering ice creams" said Rachel "to the Luna Rossa boat training out in the bay.

So I'd guessed right, sort of.

"You should wear this t-shirt too."

She rummaged around in her bag and handed me one. It was L but I'm more of an XXL chap so a bit tight around the belly area; it sounds better if you say figure hugging or streamlined.

The big chap seemed to take charge, leading us down the pontoon out to a Sunseeker, standard white plastic box fitted out for the offshore fishing day charter market. Everyone slung their bags down below and grabbed a seat: I picked one close to Rachel and Ali, not knowing anyone else.

With a roar we were off, nose pointed for the horizon, separated from us by a sea sparkling under the afternoon sun.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 2/13

Rachel - and Ali

"G'day" I said, being friendly like.

"Hello" she said. For a moment she looked at me and boy were her eyes nice looking, brown and capable. All too often women seem to look at yours truly either as if I was an idiot or got the plague, but she seemed to see beneath the Buff exterior.

"You in Palermo for the sailing?" It was what I asked everyone, as if they said yes we'd be away if they said no I could explain all about it. Either way the ice was broken.

"Are you a sailor?" she asked.

"Buff Staysail" I said. "Journalist and writer, you might have caught my show on Queensland Community TV. And you?"

I was ever hopeful, on many levels.

"Rachel."

"And you? A journo too?" I asked.

She seemed to think over that question. "I follow the sailing for interest" she said "with my boyfriend, who is late.”

All the nice ones seem to have other halfs.

As if on cue in came this unshaven chap with glasses wearing a leather jacket, who was typically slimmer, younger and better look than Buff, who promptly kissed Rachel. I was prepared to dislike the bloke but he was very friendly and when she explained who I was he offered to buy me a beer.

"I understand you journalists like the odd drink" he said with a smile.

As I said, he seemed a top cobber, Ali he was called.

Then Rachel and he went off jabbering in some language or other that I didn't follow. It seemed like a bit of a bummer from what I could gather from Rachel's expression, but then they started looking at me as I'd seen the farmers back in Queensland check out the calf to be slaughtered.

"Mr Staysail" began Ali.

"Call me Buff."

"Mr Staysail, would you be interested in a sailing scoop?"

Does the moon look like cream cheese? Should a rainbow be the other way up so it's smiling? Should beer be chilled?

"Scoop is my middle name" says I, which isn't true as really its Frederick or Freddie after my ma's great uncle. "Tell me all."

"We have a ... project ... that could use coverage and our contact’s father is very unwell so couldn’t come. We need a replacement, fast. I can't say more now, our ...sponsor... has an embargo in place."

"No worries" says I. There had been similar restrictions about this trip.

"Meet us by the entrance to marina F, tomorrow at 4 pm. Bring an overnight bag."

I was in!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 1/13

The Luna Rossa Assignment

G’day all! Buff Staysail here! Buff by name and Buff by nature!

I’ve been off on another of Buff’s adventures, and it began a few weeks ago when I was invited by the Luna Rossa team to one of their media events in Sicily. Now Buff never says no to helping one of the 34rd America’s Cup teams raise their profile, especially if there’s a jolly to somewhere warm, so in a jiffy the bags were packed and yours truly was at thirty thousand feet in an aircraft heading south.

Buff must just for a moment say what stars the Luna Rossa PR team were for putting on a hit event. They picked us up direct from our hotel then whisked us out on fast RIBs for a photo-shoot to watch their boat training off Palermo. And what a sight it was - levitated by their foils, flying across waves reflected in their mirrored hulls. I’d gone snap happy, filling up the camera’s memory card with shot after shot, relishing in the strong sunshine after what has been one heck of a depressing cold and grey winter.

Who needs or wants a hat, I said at the drinks reception (top notch Italian bubbly guys) afterwards, when people commented I was looking a bit red:I was making up for six months of lost time.

We had to listen to some sort of presentation about how they’d shipped Luna Rossa back to this, the home yacht club of Circolo della Vela Scilia, to raise the team’s profile with the Italians and Sicilians (who apparently consider themselves very different). For the evening ol’ Buff considered himself one of them and rattled off a couple of ciao bellas to the PR team’s girls.

Alas the next day was not so good. I had a wall-banger of a headache and skin blistering in a dozen places, some of which, weirdly, hadn’t seen any sun. It was a day to stay indoors in the dark kept company by a bottle of water trying out the full range of after-sun lotions stocked by the pharmacy next door to the hotel.

So while the other hacks took the minibus back to the airport I asked Jenny the Luna Rossa girl if she’d be an angel and re-arrange my flight for another day. After all, I pointed out, if their boat had had a spot of shade I’d not be suffering from sunstroke.

And she agreed! Didn’t expect to get away with that one, to be honest. As I said, respect to the Luna Rossa team.

After a day self-nursing myself back to true Buff-ness it was time to get out there again and I headed down to the quay side for a cold one.

Ports, whether for fancy yacht racers or working container ships, mean sailors, and that means bars, so many that even if Buff should get chucked out of one there'd be plenty of others to explore. After a short walk I found this place called Estrella, just on the boundary between the swanky, meaning expensive, and less costly, but more homely, further down the quay side. There were hams hanging from the ceiling, curing slowly, their fat dripping into yogurt pots, bottles of red wine as decoration and a TV always on, playing or replaying football games.

All in all a good place, and imagine how my mood was helped when next to me sat down this dark haired young woman. The evening was looking up!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure

I'm off travelling again and for a hint where check out the photo above. It's somewhere outside mobile coverage so it might be some time before back on blogger.

To fill in the gap this blog is going a bit off-piste with a short story about what happened when Buff joined Luna Rossa on one of their PR / training sessions. It might not be what you expect, but experiments are like that.

Anyhow it's written and gives me 13 days worth of scheduled posts ready baked, starting Saturday.

As its America's Cup related I'd like to dedicate it to the memory of Andrew "Bart" Simpson.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Many ways to travel

One final post on the last trip before the next one begins.

There were times on my travel when I did wonder why I made my life so complicated. It would have been simpler just to combine planes with taxis, but that would have meant I missed out on so much.

Planes

Pretty simple - jets and one propeller plane

Road transport

Yup a couple of taxis, but also a hire car (below), a friend's car and a couple of buses in Australia. Alas I never got to go on the trams of Melbourne which was a shame. One of the fun things to do there is to get the tram down to the seaside suburb of St. Kilda but alas too much work.
Trains

A couple of good train journeys including the uber fast MagLev in Shanghai capable of 501 kmph. It's highest operational speed is 430 kmph but in the evening when I took it it slows to "just" 301 kmph:
The journey between Shanghai and Beijing was by by the high speed train that covers 1,318 km in 4 hours and 48 minutes, again topping out at 301 kmph:
To be honest the view wasn't that spectacular. It was spookily similar to going across France on the TGV with for most of the way an endless plain of fields in either direction.

In Beijing the traffic was absolutely awful so I tried out the subway and jolly good it was too. Signs and ticket machines were in Chinese and English and trains were frequent and no more packed than London.

Finally there were some trains on the trip down the gold mine in Ballarat.

Boats

Not as many boats as would have liked. Not sure if can claim the Polly Woodside given it was firmly moored in Melbourne, so that just leaves the paddle steamers and the tourist boat in Shanghai

Foot

A lot of that, and it probably was just as well I lugged my hiking boots around the world

Missing

There were a couple of modes of transport not ticked off, but hopefully the next trip will do some of them. Except hot air balloon and space ship, alas.


Monday, July 22, 2013

#RoyalBaby a sailor???

Hi guys!

OMG!! Like..... I.... like..... can't breath!!

Isn't it sooooooooo exciting!! After 9 months of Kate's maternity fashion perfection the big day has finally come and a little prince or princess is about enter this world!!

Ok, ok, JP wants me to remind you that William's dad (above) and granddad were both sailors or something. He also went on about inspiring the next British America's Cup bla bla bla ..... but to be honest who cares?

Baby clothes!! Kate's figure recapture fitness regime!!

OMG!!!

Luv ya!!

Sassi xxx


Updated:

Sassi says #ITSABOY!!!


The Great Wall of China

Along with the Forbidden City the other "must do" in Beijing is the Great Wall of China, which is a few miles north of the city.

Even more than the Forbidden City it was overwhelming in its scale. You can see its line dotted with forts string its way up and down hills as far as the eye can see, and yet you can only see a fraction of it at any one time.

Apparently you can't actually see it from space as its not wide enough, but boy is it long. According to Wikipedia, with all its branches and counting those bits that have weathered away, there could have been as much as 21,196 km of it.
The most touristy section which is familiar from all those photo-ops with foreign dignitaries is Badaling which is meant to be pretty commercial and not very authentic.

I did a hiking tour from Simatai to Jinshanling which was about 7 km with lots of up and down so it was a good thing I had three bottles of water with me.
It was a good hike though not as uplifting as I'd expected. There was something relentless about how it just keeps on going, how you can never "do" the Great Wall.

You will be defeated, eventually, simply by the scale of the Great Wall.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Forbidden City Beijing

There are two things you really should do when you go to Beijing and one is visit the Forbidden City.

So despite 12 hour days and relentless flow of emails I took some time off to go round this extraordinary World Heritage Site, mostly 600 years old.

It is absolutely vast so in the end spent over 4 hours touring its apparently endless passages and halls:

I took the audio tour which is well worth it as it gives gems about the background.

Each building had a name - something like "Eternal Halls of Peace and Tranquillity"  - but the stories associated with them were usually very different to their names, almost always involving concubines scheming or dying of a broken heart.

It was the start of the school holidays and it felt like a million families were there too, but if you went furthest from the main route through the backbone of the site you could get a bit of quiet. My favourite moment was near the three level theatre:
Here I had a good sit and long drink of water, for it was another hot and humid day, and to consult the guide book.

I was finding I was doing this quite a lot as there is so much history about China that I for one don't know and it was hard to keep track of all the emperors and invasions.

Finally my zigzag route based upon the Lonely Planet and audio tour guides ended and I could proceed north to the exit and a well earned slice of water melon.
Then it was back to the hotel for work related chores, so I didn't go to Jingshan Park on the hill in the photo above.

There was indeed much I didn't manage to see - maybe next time!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Navigational shape quiz

What does it mean when a power driven vessel underway raises the ball above or lowers it?

Updated

I think the Bursledon Blogger was closest, in that I think this was a navigational signal used on the Huangpu River.

I was on a boat that gave a tour of the river, first heading upstream, then down, before returning to the start point. That meant it had to do two u-turns, and as can be seen by the pictures above and below the river is quite busy with a constant stream of boats in both directions. So it was useful to be able to inform the other shipping of its intentions.

It raised the ball sufficiently prior to the turn that other traffic could be aware of its intentions and then dropped it as it was turning.

However I guess Tillerman had a good point too - if you don't understand what a boat is indicating keep a good eye on it!



Friday, July 19, 2013

The Bund in Shanghai

I think it was after seeing the film Skyfall that I decided it would be cool to see The Bund in Shanghai.

The view was spectacular (above) but it was a steamy 33C rather than cool and this view is actually of the buildings on the opposite side of the Huangpu River, namely Pudong.

It looks pretty good in the day time too, as you can see more buildings including one that looks a bit like that Eye of Sauron building in Mordor:
The Bund itself is a collection of colonial era buildings, part of the international settlement, that runs along the river. This is the view approaching it from a boat:
In the evening it was absolutely packed with what looked like locals, strolling down for a photo or heading back to the shops.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Clippers and paddle steamers

As the Victorian era began the wheels of the industrial revolution were already well under way. Merchants with big whiskers and top hats were heading out into what were the colonies hunting for raw materials.

But there was a long long way from the wide open expenses of Australia where the wool grows (if that's the technical term) to the spinning jennys of the grim up t'north mills.

The solution was an "integrated transportation network" to use modern day lingo and I was to go on-board two of the key components while in Australia.

The first leg was by river. The Murray and Darling rivers comprise one of the longest navigable waterways in the world, comprising up to 5,500 km when the rivers were full, a lot less in the dry months.

The wool was packed into bales and then transported by paddle steamer driven barges to Echuca where the three level wharf could handle hundreds of dockings per season and thousands upon thousands of bales of wool.

And why Echuca? Well, this was the closest point of the river system to Melbourne and it was here that the railway was built, to connect the river system to the great port.

So the wool bales made their way to the sea where they were stuffed aboard the great clipper ships of their day, like the Polly Woodside (above).

Polly and her friends would then fly across the bottom of the world, around Cape Horn, up the long Atlantic, to the great ports of Glasgow and Liverpool, fuelling the economy on which the sun would never set.

It was a great system but that middle leg was to be the downfall of the other two. For if you could build one railway you could build a dozen, and if you put a steam engine in a boat you didn't need sails.

But the paddle steamers and clipper boats did their job with grace and life, and while it might be sad they are no longer needed for transport, at least these two fine examples have survived and are well looked after.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mississippi vs. Murray River Paddle Steamers

I like a lot of boats, but there's one that makes me grind my teeth every time I see it, and its right here on the Thames.

It looks a bit like a Mississippi paddle steamer and its a total fake.

The worst bit is not that its a reproduction, nor that the wheel is spinning freely rather than powering the vessel.

No, what bugs me is that there is a strong maritime tradition in London and there's no need for such an import, and I keep wondering who exactly its meant to appeal to.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have problems with Mississippi paddle steamers and on that great river I'd like to give them a try. But they are not right for the Thames, no, no, no.

Nor the Huangpu River in Shanghai either come to that:
So I was interested to see what sort of paddle steamer they had at Echuca and was relieved to see that the Murray River had its own design and these boats were in keeping with that tradition (see top photo).

Both Mississippi and Murray River boats had similar requirements, mostly transporting cargo, but there are design differences driven by the widths of the rivers.

The Mississippi river is wide, so when hauling cargo their paddle steamers could attach barges to the side. But that wouldn't work on the narrow Murray, which must therefore tow them behind the boat, where, should the skipper hit reverse, they would smash into any paddle that was at the stern.

Therefore on the Murray River where the paddle steamers tow their freight behind them the paddles must be on the side of the boat, not its stern.

In addition as the river often has overhanging trees the boats can't have high chimney stacks or more than 3 stories.

The Mississippi and Murry paddle steamers were designed differently to take into account the differences in the rivers on which they travel.

So don't go transplanting paddle steamers onto rivers where they don't belong.


The paddle steamers of Echuca

These photos were taken in the Australian town of Echuca which claims to be home to the largest number of paddle steamers. One of them is PS Adelaide, the oldest operating paddle steamer in the world, having been built in 1866.

And jolly nice they were too, puffing away properly, the air reeking of their smoke, and when on-board one there was a gentle rhythm under foot.

A very civilized way to travel up and down the rivers of Australia - which are one of the longest navigable water ways in the world.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Buff applauds the America's Cup

G'day all! Buff Staysail here! Buff by name and Buff by nature!

You know, all sorts of people have been saying all sorts of things about the new style America's Cup, and for some reason they've been negative.

"Not really racing" is the typical comment. "I want my money back" another.

But they have missed the point - this is INSPIRATIONAL stuff!

It reminded ol' Buff of sports days back at school. Those of us big boned and the geek types like JP were at a disadvantage, left at the starting line by the jocks.

And sailing too often repeats that, with those who can spend 100 days a year out of the water training having a clearly unfair advantage over the gentleman sportsman like yours truly.

It's disheartening, at a time when sailing needs to be enthusing a new generation.

So what better way to raise the spirits than showing how you can be guaranteed victory: hold races with just the one boat!

"Inspire a generation" was the Olympics motto and what better way of doing it than showing that you too can be a winner! Just enter your boat into the America's Cup and BINGO - you win at least one race!!

Buff is loving it!

This is Buff Staysail, winner, over and out!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

What makes a good drive?

I don't often post about driving.

It's not just that this is meant to be a boating blog (no sniggering at the back there) but living in London has put me off cars. Roads here are congested and slow, with one way miseries and the hellish tortures of the South Circular, and all they seem to do is generate noise and pollution.

And London is not as bad as Beijing, where the traffic was grim indeed.

It was only in places like Scotland that cars can be pleasant, and maybe that's why Top Gear seems to shoot up there so often.

But even Scotland has nothing on the Australian State of Victoria's C roads.

Mile after mile of good roads, with enough straight bits to get some speed up with enough corners and dips to be interesting. Farmlands and national parks on either side, and an avenue of Eucalyptus to guide you right, but most importantly, hardly any other cars.

You'd fly along with nothing ahead or in the rear mirror, just empty road. After twenty minutes you realise this isn't a one off but is going to continue for another twenty minutes - even another hour.

So forget the Great Ocean Road, which winds so slowly between rock cliffs and perilous drops down to the sea, and head inland for a really good drive.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Behind the Great Wall of China

I had these posts from Australia planned in my head.

There were roads worthy of Top Gear and some rather nice paddle steamers, but there was a problem: I was in China.

And in China there are various sites that mysteriously (or maybe not so mysteriously) fail to load.

I never got into Facebook, nor Blogger, but also many actual blogs were inaccessible. So no updates from the worlds of Tillerman and Bonnie.

China is making an effort to welcome foreigners, with many signs in English, but this wasn't one of them. For anyone from the PRC reading this: social sites are how we connect to friends and family and to be cut off from them is not welcoming.

And it can be counter productive. For example I read in one of the local papers about a recently produced video called "This is Shanghai" - but you can't actually see it in China, which is a shame.

Anyway, back in blighty now so normal service will be restored.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Aboriginal rock paintings

Us modern humans are the odd ones, with our aircraft crossing thousands of miles in a couple of hours, communicating with those on the other side of the planet as if they are next door.

Humanity has a deep time, going back tens of thousands of years, and most of our history was different, slower, for it is today that is the exception.

But you don't often get to experience those most ancient of days. One of the few chances is in those cultures that have kept a connection to that era, and the Aboriginals in Australia are one.

In the Grampians are rock shelters where you can see hand prints, animal tracks and stick figures, such as those above, and I was very keen to see them.

It was quite a long drive to the far north west of the national park, along authentic feeling dirt roads (below) to reach the Gulgurn Manja and Ngamadjidj shelters.
Light was fading, and at the second site I was the only person there. There is no permanent presence to keep watch, and for that reason they have a metal cage around them, which was a shame, though understandable.

But you can see the images clearly:
The text and guide book described their spiritual significance, but also of how the rocks would be meeting places, visible from the plains below:
It was that image that caught my imagination, of people coming there for various reasons, and meeting.

There'd be friends catching up, rivals eyeing each other up, lovers flirting, families visiting, sages watching for signs, navigators inspecting the landscape to connect mental maps, hunters looking for prey, warriors for enemies, people chatting and gossiping, children playing...

In other words all the things that we do today, all the things that make us human.

Hiking the Grampians

Having spent far too many days stuck in hotel rooms working on the laptop it felt like time to stretch my legs and a couple of hours drive west from Ballarat is just the place - the Grampians National Park.

It comprises 1,672 square kilometers of sandstone mountains, forest, rivers and good hiking trails and, being this close to Melbourne, is a popular holiday destination.

Having said that I had no trouble getting accommodation which might be because its winter down here, and the arrival at Halls Gap wasn't promising, with thunderous rain drumming on the car roof.

However it sort of worked out, with just the odd shower while I was walking, and anyhow its just water, and meant there was no worries about forest fires that have blighted the region in the past.

So I hiked the Wonderland trail via the Grand Canyon (more petite than grand to be honest) to the Pinnacle lookout (above) and also down the many steps to the base of the MacKenzie Falls (below):


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ballarat's Sovereign Hill

Ballarat is known for it's gold - its why the town exists, its what made it wealthy and caused miners to pour in during the mid 19th Century.

Sovereign Hill is a reconstruction of what it must have been like, complete with mine you can go down, actors in costume, main street with shops and a theatre, horse drawn carriages etc.

Normally I find it hard to get into these sort of tourist attractions but this had two strengths. Firstly a lot of what was on display was authentic as the site really had been a gold mine, and you could go down into one of the chambers that had been cleared out by independent miners.

Then there was the spirit of the actors, avoiding cheesiness by employing that Aussie knowning irony: "yes this is a bit fake but who care lets have some fun."


Having said that the shop windows used large modern plates of glass and the mine had skirting board level down-lights that were clearly chosen for health and safety reasons than authenticity.

But despite that enjoyed spending a couple of hours wandering around before returning to the car and driving out into the modern world.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

As posted previously, Lake Wendouree in Ballarat was the site of 1956 Summer Olympics for rowing and canoeing.

It's also got a sailing club that had a big sign up offering chances to sail but the weather was grey and raining so I went instead into the Art Gallery where saw a lovely picture of boats sailing on it back in the 19th Century.

You can still seeing the rowing lanes and the lake shore is dotted with boat houses though one has been turned into a nice restaurant.

I should try to arrange my next trip down under to be in summer rather than winter.



Picture puzzle

This place was the site of some Olympic rowing, but:

  1. Which Olympics?
  2. What's the location?
  3. What would be an appropriate colour medal for this town and why?