Neighbours

The most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona at my doorstep. The Sagrada Familia started construction in 1882 and is hoped to be completed in 2026 – for the centennial of Gaudí’s death. That will total 144 years of construction which is 7 times the time it took to build the Taj Mahal.

Antoni Gaudí is buried in La Sagrada Familia, he died a few days after being hit by a tram. He was mistaken by a beggar and thus people didn’t take him to hospital promptly. So in a way, we are now neighbours.

Bigger than Central Park

Kings Park is at least 15% bigger than the Central Park in NYC. At 400 hectares it is one of the largest inner city parks, and is visited by more than six million people each year.

The park sits in Mount Eliza and overlooks the beautiful Swan River, the city of Perth and its surrounding suburbs. The park is 2/3 bush and 1/3 is gardens, playgrounds and other areas. Ideal for walks, runs and picnics.

This place is sacred for Aboriginals. They believe that the Wagyl, a mythical serpent, entered the ground near the park and came out at the foot of Mount Eliza and created the Swan River.

Walking in the sky

A good stop to stretch your legs, if you are heading North from Denmark, is the Granite Skywalk. A 4.4 km return hike up 282 meters incline through the Porongurup National Park. During the bushwalk you can enjoy the vegetation or admire the massive granite boulders that nature has created. These rocks are, and have been for millions of years, in an eternal balancing act that started with a crack and rain drops running through them; until eventually they are what we see today.

At the top of the hike you have a choice of two lookouts. The upper lookout perches over the side of Castle Rock and requires scrambling over and under rocks and climbing a rattling ladder. The lower lookout, the Karri Lookout, for those who are not comfortable with the adrenaline pump to go up to the upper lookout. Both offering amazing views of the region and a healthy dose of cold wind blowing in your face.

Climbing big trees

Before the introduction of spotter planes and drones, a network of fire lookout trees was built across the south-west forests of Australia. The aim: to spot fires that were hidden at ground level by the giant Karri forests during the hot Aussie summers.

The first Karri fire lookout tower, was the Big Tree, constructed in 1938. This lookout was lost years later to a bushfire. After this tree, eight other lookouts followed between 1937 and 1952, including the Gloucester Tree chosen as a fire lookout in 1947. Gloucester Tree is 72 meters in height though the lookout is at 61 meters. Although the Gloucester tree was originally pegged with wooden pegs, now all the trees are pegged with metal pegs which are easier to grip. They are regularly checked for any faults. The Gloucester Tree has 153 pegs.

Nowadays climbing up the giants is an attraction for tourists that rewards them with amazing views at the top. No one has died making their ascent to the three trees lookouts but two people have had heart attacks after climbing the trees.

Lumps in the land

You wouldn’t even know that just a short drive north from Brisbane 11 gorgeous peaks of the Glass House Mountains can be found in the hinterland. They are the remains of volcanic activity that occurred about 25-27 million years ago. When the volcanic mountains cooled down, stunning vertical columns emerged in the middle of a landscape of eucalyptus trees and pineapple plantations. However, there is another story explaining the origins of the mountains.

It is believed that the Glass House Mountains area is a special ceremonial site where many Aboriginal people, the Gubbi Gubbi people, gathered for ceremonies and trading. Though the aboriginal people do not talk about which ceremonies or rituals are practiced in the area.

How they got their European name is that Captain Cook was reminded of glass furnaces from the north of England.

A pelican with eyelashes

Percy the big pelican is 41 years old this year. Built in 1977 it has lived a long life full of adventures; including capsizing in the Noosa River. After that near death experience, Percy got restored for over $10,000 and took 6 months to complete. It is now mounted on a trailer and is sometimes used for street parades. The pelican can rotate its head, blink its eyes, open and close its bill, flap its winds and even wiggle its tail, all controlled by a collection of levers, pulleys and ropes from within.

Nowadays parked in Noosaville in front of Pelican Boat Hire, by the river, serving if nothing else but a good reference point for morning runs or a landmark for locals.

Too big to be a rat, too small to be a wallaby

Bandicoots are small marsupials that have strong hind legs designed for jumping and sharp front paws to dig holes when it detects underground prey. Bandicoots then reach their meal with their long snout and use their pointed teeth to chomp through their prize. These opportunistic omnivores, are happy to eat pretty much anything, from insects, larvae, lizards, mice and snails, to fungi, grass seeds, berries and fruit. They ‘grunt’ happily when they’re munching their food, and make a shrill squeak when disturbed.

Just like in other marsupials, female bandicoots have a pouch. And like wombats, the pouch faces upside down to protect their offspring from the dirt when digging.

Bandicoots have the shortest pregnancy of all mammals (12 days). Like Koalas, baby bandicoots are very small and poorly developed at birth. After birth, they crawl toward the pouch, where they complete their development.

Bandicoots are a protected animal in all states of Australia. Of the 20 species of bandicoots in Australia, 7 are listed as critically endangered or already extinct. Introduced and native species, like foxes, dingos, large birds and feral and domestic cats and dogs are bandicoots predators.

Bandicoots play an important role in the ecosystem as they turn over soil, increasing the rate of leaf litter decomposition, soil production and nutrient cycling. They’re also critical in dispersing fungi spores, so losing bandicoots from ecosystems would have fatal cascading effects on plant diversity, species composition and structure of forests and woodlands in Australia and SouthEast Asia where they live.

Hard but… rewarding?

Bouddi National Park is a national park that is home to some very pretty and unique bush and coastal walks. The park was established in 1967 as a National Park; and named after the local Aboriginal name of the area: Bouddi.

One of the walks in the park is the Bouddi coastal walk. An 8km walk full of quiet beaches, lookout points, boardwalks and panoramic ocean views. Though what other sites fail to say is: a hard and very hilly walk. You will find yourself up and down a steep hill before you finish the previous one. Especially challenging if you don’t carry enough water on a hot summers day. Or after a long night of beers and fighting with sound systems.

However, the strenous work is alleviated by Maitland Beach. A hidden gem you can only get there by walking through the bush. And the ups and downs. And it’s worth it.

Maitland Beach is in Maitland Bay which was named after the paddle steamer SS Maitland that was wrecked on the submerged reef off Bouddi Head in 1898. Apparently, the remains of the boiler still sit on the eastern rock platform. But I cannot confirm nor deny that. I can, however, confirm that this beach was well worth the arduous exercise.

Burnt path

Another Sunday, another bush walk. Starting South of Sydney, in Cronulla, with a long beach to walk across to then enter the historic Kamay Botany Bay National Park on the Kurnell Peninsula. Its historic significance dates to 1770 when it is said that Captain Cook landed here. It is now, supposedly, one of the best whale watching spots in Sydney, though we were a bit late to watch the humpback migration that happens in June/July.

We kept wondering why the walking platforms were all burnt, had a fire been a controled fire or a natural disaster. Of course, reaching the end of our 14km walk we discovered the walking track was closed to public. I guess they dont have a lot of walkers starting on the Cronulla side.

So it happens that a few weeks past a fire consumed 350 hectares of land south of Sydney, with speculations that it was an arsonist who started it on Sunday 3 September. It was impressive to see a land come back to life as it is used to fires in the hot summer days; plants had already started blooming and growing again after just a handful of weeks.