Australia, Trip 3 – Part 3, Burragorang

Saturday 27th September

I wasn’t too sure what to do today. It’s been a long busy week and with the addition of some very unconventional sleep partners, it is safe to say I am a little on the tired side. But time spent on this continent is rare so should not be wasted.

This evening I am meeting some of the guys from the office in Sydney for a few drinks and to watch, heaven forbid, a football match! Liverpool v Everton apparently. We will see how long I stay for that.

And so, having looked at the map last night, I chose Burragorang Valley as my destination for a drive out into the glorious countryside.

As with so many of the destinations that I have been to in the Blue Mountains National Park, the sheer scale and beauty only become visible at the last moment. This was very much the case at the Burragorang lookout.

You approach the lookout on tarmac roads through open countryside and it is only in the last mile or so do you become surrounded by the eucalyptus trees which give the region its blue haze and therefore name. As the road ends there is a car park and a short walk to the railings from which the view is truly magnificence. No words that I can write, or the photographs I have included here, can do justice to what you can see from this vantage point high up over the flooded valley and forests beyond.

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As part of the water purification control regulations access to the entire valley is strictly controlled creating an almost total wilderness, an area from which all but the very lucky few are excluded.

The valley was flooded in the 1950’s in order to create a more secure water supply for Sydney. Although it had been planned almost since the first settlers drifted through the region, it was not until the great drought of 1934 – 1942, when Sydney very nearly suffered a total failure of its water supply, did the orders finally get put in place to dam the river and flood the valley.

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The Warragamba Dam was completed in 1960 just in time to capture the near record floods of 1961. A re-evaluation of potential rainfall and flood risks was carried out between 1987 and 1989 which resulted in the dam being raised by 5 metres and an new auxiliary spillway constructed to the east bank.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post my evening was spent in Sydney watching a football match! Actually the evening was great, first meeting the guys from the office at a bar in Darling Harbour we initially went to Cheers bar on George Street but it was so busy we moved onto the casino which also had a sports bar. A few drinks and lots of laughs, a great time was had. Final score 1 – 1. I left just before midnight which was very opportune as it allowed me to get the last train back to North Ryde.

Sunday – chores! Shopping, washing, recovering from the night before.

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 2

Sunday 21st September

It’s is certainly good to be back in Sydney!

It was as if I had never been away when I jumped on the train at the airport yesterday morning and headed for my hotel in North Ryde. Everything felt so familiar, so comfortable. It was hard to believe I had left, even harder to believe that in reality I have spent so little time here.

The journey to the hotel was so straight forward. International Terminal to Wynyard and then change for North Ryde; not to forget I need the train going via Macquarie University. Just a five minute wait for the next train at each stop.

Saturday was mainly about sleep. I checked in and found myself in an identical room to my last visit. Unpack; sleep. Watch some rubbish on the telly, Australian television is dreadful, dinner, some work, sleep.

2014-09-21 10.44.07Today I am back in the centre of Sydney. Breakfast at the Swagmans Cafe in The Rocks, a family favorite, and then a walk.

A half marathon is underway when I arrive resulting in a lot of the roads being closed and so I found myself, more by luck than judgement, outside the Museum of Sydney. As this was on my list of places to visit this trip I went in. Built on the site of the original Government House, it was worth a look but I didn’t feel that I learnt anything new about the city.2014-09-21 13.11.34

2014-09-21 13.24.01Now I am sitting in the Botanical gardens writing and watching the world go by. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and although there is a very slight chill in the breeze, it is just about perfect. Various boats pass by in the harbour, including the very recognisable Manly Ferry. It is safe to say I have missed being here. Nowhere in Manchester allows me just to sit and think. At home there is too much to do; to much to get done. But here in Sydney, in this park, I can just sit and relax. A perfect Sunday!

I spent some time walking around the water front, as far as Woolloomooloo Bay and then back again. Enjoying the sights and sounds. Occasionally I just sat and watched the world go by.

As the light began to fade, it gets dark very early in Sydney, I decided I needed to eat before heading back to the hotel. My choice being The Rocks Cafe on George Street. I have walked past this place many times often admiring the cakes on display in the window. I had previously promised myself a slice of their lemon meringue pie and so stepped in side.

2014-09-21 18.01.09The food was wonderful as was the service; definitely to be recommended.

And so a great day back in Sydney came to a close. Just the journey to the hotel to think about.

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 1

Tuesday 16th September

I am currently sitting in the Handmade Burger Co. restaurant in Manchester. Having ordered my food, my thoughts have turned to my next big adventure. I am here again tomorrow, Manchester that is as opposed to the restaurant, and then heading south, pickup some cloths, sort out a few final chores and then to the airport.

For the third time this year I am heading round the world to Sydney, Australia. A shorter trip than last time, only four weeks, but that just means I need to make sure that I make the most of the opportunity.

Other than re-equating myself with the city and visiting the Sydney museum which I ran out of time to do previously, I think my main adventure this time will be a little further a field; but where?

There are two clear candidates in my mind; Fraser Island or Hobart, Tasmania.

Fraser Island, a few hours drive north of Brisbane is the largest sand island in the world. Just one of the many records this magnificent continent holds. There is a highway on the beach, just pure sand beneath your tyres, fresh water lakes and rain forests all making up this remarkable and unique environment. But with so much to experience is there time?

A trip to Tasmania on the other hand will take in Hobart the capital city as well as Port Arthur another of the world heritage convict sites which I would like to visit in order to increase my knowledge of Australian history and the part Britain played in shaping it.

I have seen both these sites on various television programs this year and also undertaken a little reading to understand better what there is to see and experience. Now I simply need to make up my mind and book the flights!

Flying, an update

Micro2A few lessons in I thought it about time for a quick post with an update on my progress. As such it kind of goes without saying that I am still flying.

During the initial trial flight I was seated at the back with the pilot in the front. I also sat holding on to what ever I could find; which as you will have guessed from the pictures is not a lot. A few times I felt a little uncomfortable as the wind caught the wing or we flew through turbulence. These feelings were sufficient to make me wonder if this was really something that I wanted to do.

During my subsequent flights I have been in the front and for the most part in control – except of course for all the important bits, take-off, landings and the like. In the front and with my hands on the control bar I have felt considerably more comfortable. Although I still get the occasional anxious moments.

Slowly I am getting to understand the plane but also the time it is going to take to really master it and be in a position to be up in the sky completely on my own. Basic maneuvers are being learnt and practiced and over the coming weeks joined together.

Each lesson is an hour in the air with briefings before and after the flight. That is with the exception of the Trial which was 40 minutes. Flights so far:

  • Micro1Friday 11th July  –  Trial flight
  • Sunday 20th July
  • Saturday 26th July
  • Wednesday 30th July
  • Tuesday 5th August

Minimum flying time for a license – 25 hours.

A way to go yet …….

Manchester – My First Weekend

Following my post at the beginning of July listing the places I need to see while in Manchester, this has been the first opportunity I have had to tick off a few items. As Lauren had a couple of days off work she decided to come and stay saving me the 200 mile trip home. The client I am working for at the moment has very kindly booked me a serviced apartment in the city centre. Unlike hotels, these apartments are block booked, in my case for an initial six weeks, which gives me a perfect base from which to live and explore. It also means that I can have visitors.

After a long week, and with the weather being horrible, Friday night proved literally to be a wash out. We did meet up for lunch at Costa, but by the time I got back from the office in the evening I was soaked through, and so, after a quick 5 minute walk to the local convenience store, it was a lazy night in front of the telly.

Saturday was to be busy; with so many places to visit, a decent, if a little late, breakfast was in order. Bill’s Restaurant, just off Deansgate, proved to be perfect; check out Lauren’s blog for her review.

After breakfast, we headed towards the Arndale Centre as there were a couple of things we needed. This brought us into contact with two, unexpected, things. First was a demonstration in support of the people of Gaza; rather loud and with the use of some inappropriate phrases, it past by us relatively quickly for which we were both rather thankful.

The second was “Dig the City”, Manchester’s Urban Gardening Festival which was made of up of a large number of small gardens created right in the street. There were vegetables, flowers and even a crazy golf course! There were many really clever ideas which could be adapted easily into any town centre garden.


Next we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Housed in five former railway warehouse buildings, MOSI covers everything from the sewers below our feet, through the industry which made Manchester so rich, to the planes which fly over our heads. The museum also houses the oldest railway station in the world with a full size steam engine taking visitors on short rides through the site. One of the buildings which was clearly a former railway maintenance shed housed a number of engines and carriages which have been, or are currently being, restored to their former glory.

There was so much to see at MOSI, which I think we found a little overwhelming. We also found that so many of the exhibits were not labeled, and the route through not particularly well defined, so that we seemed to drift with little direction through items which we didn’t understand. As such we left earlier that anticipated and with a sense that we had perhaps missed out on much that the museum had to offer. Highlights were without doubt the buildings and railway tracks themselves.

2014-08-02 14.57.01From MOSI we followed the back roads into Spinningfields and round past the numerous shops and restaurants the area has to offer. Our destination The John Rylands Library.

I am not going to say much about this building other than to say you really MUST go in. The entrance is in the new part at the back of the original library which fronts on to Deansgate.

The building is a masterpiece and incredibly atmospheric, particularly on a gloomy or winters day as the light outside fades and the shadows escape from their hiding places.

Next, more food! This time The Handmade Burger Company, another absolute gem of a place. A good selection on the menu both for meat eaters like me and vegetarians like Lauren. I had the Lamb and Mint burger and it was superb.

So that was Saturday. Sunday started with another trip to the Arndale Centre as I needed to collect something which I had ordered on-line a few days before.

My apartment is situated on Princes Street which had been completely closed off to traffic, and in parts to pedestrians, for the Go Sky Ride event which apparently saw 12,000 cyclists on the streets of Manchester!

A quick breakfast at Costa Coffee and it was on to the Peoples History Museum.

Now I’m not a union man, or a member of any political party, and so when I read a little of the history of this place I wasn’t too sure that it would be worth the effort. The collections were in part provided by the Trade Unions and the Labour party, and so I was expecting history to be written in a particular way; I was very pleasantly surprised. The museum was incredibly interesting taking you through the changes from the majority having no say in their own lives let a lone the running of the country, the Peterloo Massacre, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and so on through the wars and the ultimate universal suffrage which we enjoy today.

A special exhibition is on until the 1st February 2015, looking at the effect of the First World War on the people who went to war, those that stayed behind and how their lives changed on their return. Entitled “A Land Fit For Heroes and the Working Class 1914-1918” it is well worth a look.

Finally to round the weekend off we took a drive out to Salford Quays so that I could show Lauren the Imperial War Museum, Media City and the new Coronation Street studio.

A great weekend; some interesting places visited and some even better food eaten. More yet to see during my next weekend in Manchester.

Microlight – the trial

Friday 11th July

30 years ago I had a trial flight in a Microlight having seen one on the TV. It was brilliant. Total freedom in an aircraft that could take off and land on any reasonably flat piece of ground. Unfortunately my finances at the time meant that it wasn’t possible to take the adventure any further. The trial flight was the only flight.

That was until today.

Over the intervening years l have been lucky enough to fly several fixed wing light aircraft, I have even had a go at flying a helicopter, but nothing has come close to my memory of the complete sense of freedom that the Microlight afforded. You are open to the elements sitting in a simple trike with a hang glider wing and a lawn mower engine keeping you in the air. Ok so the technology is somewhat better than that, but in aircraft terms it is as simple as it comes.

The flying school I chose is on the outskirts of Lichfield. When I arrived I was met by the owner Mick Shea who spent some time talking me through microlighting and how the days session would pan out. Then we got kitted up and it was time to fly.

We were in the air for forty minutes during which time I got a chance to take the controls. This is when you realise flying, even in its simplest form, takes a lot of skill and practice. I intended taking a few photo’s while in the air; well maybe next time.

Generally the flight was as goods as I remembered even if I did get unnerved a few times by the lumps and bumps that the air currents dished out. Afterwards Mick and I spent some time discussing what it takes to get a license and what the flying school could offer and how it operated. Before I left I also had the chance to have a chat with Steve who was part way through his training; this was a great opportunity to get another view of the school; training and a few points that I was still a little unsure about.

My first proper lesson is booked for Sunday 20th July.

Interesting links:


Watchmen @ Hughenden Manor

2014-07-09 20.08.57During World War II many of the countries great houses played their part in the defence of the nation and the liberation of Europe.

Hughenden Manor, found in the chiltern hills just outside the Buckinghamshire town of High Wycombe, was just such a house. Known best as the home of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, during the war it was given the code name “Hillside” and used by the Air Ministry to analyse aerial photographs and create maps for bombing missions including the “Dambusters” raid undertaken by the now famous 617 Squadron.

In order to commemorate 70 years since D-Day a series of sculptures have been carved out of wood taken from the manors parkland and placed back into its original surroundings. A notice placed near the car park explains the background to the Watchmen:

2014-07-09 20.15.59“These watchmen appear to be rooted, like they have always been here.Ghostly guards of a distant history observing the land. These sculptures have been carved from a variety of trees grown right here on the estate, but independently installed back into the landscape, paying homage to the once dominant High Wycombe furniture trade.”

These amazing figures have been created by Ed Elliott.

If you are in the area make the time to go see them in their perfect surroundings.

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