Tag Archives: Australia

Book Review: The Bitterbynde Trilogy – where Celtic lore meets orcs

“The rain was without beginning and without end. It pattered on incessantly, a drumming of impatient fingers. The creature knew only the sound of the rain and the rasp of its own breathing. It had no concept of its own identity, no memory of how it had come to this place. Inchoate purpose drove it upward, in darkness. Over levels of harsh stone it crawled and through dripping claws of vegetation. Sometimes it slept momentarily or perhaps lost consciousness.”

Looking for an epic trilogy? Want one that’s already finished, so you don’t wait endlessly for more?

The Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton was first conceived over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the fantasy series in a used bookstore in Australia. I snatched it up and soon discovered what I was missing. Nestled in a corner shop on the edge of a bustling beach, I thanked my luck I was able to find all three novels side-by-side. Needless to say, much of the next two days was spent with my nose pressed into the yellowed pages (when I wasn’t out snorkeling or hiking the beautiful shores of Airlie Beach).

The Bitterbynde Trilogy

The lovely trilogy I picked up from a used bookstore in Australia.

 

Beginnings …

The trilogy is a wonderfully concocted fantasy that brings folklore, magic and heroism to life. It all begins with a scarred, despised and mute foundling surrounded by superstitious servants and pompous lords. As the mute seeks the help of a wise woman in the outside world, it runs into trouble and is eventually saved by an adventurer who gives it the gift of communication through hand-speak and, most importantly, a name. Imrhien then sets off into a journey where she meets new friends, unkind foes, crazy wights, frightening monsters and ultimately falls in love…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Fun indoor adventures when the rain washes you out

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Part of Sea Life’s walk-through tunnel.

There’s nothing worse when visiting a different country to discover the all-loving Mother Nature has decided to slot rain into your schedule. Activities, hikes, and all manners of outdoor trips have to be rescheduled and you find you suddenly have a whole day available for your leisure. As such, here are some fun, though not necessarily free, activities you can do by yourself or with friends and family. I’m one of those people who don’t find it weird to eat lunch or see a movie by myself, so let’s have at it!

Note: I haven’t quite managed to figure out how to transfer my photos from my camera to my tablet quite yet without going through various stages of transferring more than once (especially since I left my card reader back home), so pictures to come!

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium:
Located near Darling Harbor, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium offers a variety of sea creatures that will appeal to young and old. Broken down into themed sections, from streams and billabongs to rocky shores, to the shark walk and valley, the multiple displays offer educational and interesting facts through signage and interactive screens.

One of my favourite portions of the aquarium was walking through the shark tunnel, which is essential a huge glass tunnel that allows you to see the underbelly of sharks and other aquatic life. The glass floor was also fun, if not slighty disturbing when young children decide to jump all at once in the same spot. Shark feed, here we come!

For those less keen on crowds, I’d advise against going to the aquarium on the weekends as there are many families and tourists equalling interested in keeping dry. There were some points where I felt rushed and was merely following the tides of the crowds rather than appreciating the smaller aquatic displays. It would have been nice to read the corresponding information and take in the underwater wonders that was offered.

Australian Museum:
There is currently a Tyrannosaurs exhibit (inner kid: wohoo!) occurring at the Australian Museum, which I found as amazing as any five-year-old kid. The exhibit is filled with Tyrannosaurs species that take a look at all related types, from big to small, including Tyrannosaurus Rex himself. Along with interactive and digital displays, one of the more interesting displays was a test to see how strong your hand grip is in comparison to that of T-Rex. The only downside was that it had to cycle through a long loop where it compared your strength to other creatures in the world as well, which caused quite a long line-up as we couldn’t skip the information. For the curious, the average human grip is 85 kg, where as a T-Rex was around 3,000 kg. There are, of course, other dinosaurs available to be viewed.

There are various sections as with any museum dedicated to birds and insects, rocks and minerals, as well as mammals and critters; those displays in itself are quite a sight to see (though I can sincerely do without the spiders and creepy crawlies). Parents with little children can also enjoy the Kid Zone, which has educational toys and games to keep them entertained.

Paddy’s Market:
Found in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s Market is a great place to find cheap souvenirs for friends and family. Though there is a lot of repetition of similar products and stalls, keep your eyes open for the best deals and interesting finds. The market place also sells fresh produce and delicious Chinese snacks at a decent price. Another place to visit (if you’re a morning person) is the Sydney Flower Market for super cheap deals for fresh flowers to keep your room smelling sweet. There is a wonderful selection of cut and potted flowers for any occasion.

 

For art lovers, there are quite a few free art exhibits located around Sydney, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Arthouse Hotel. I have yet had a chance to go to either, but there is still rain in the forecast for me so it may just happen. Another place of interest on my list is the Sydney Observatory, which offers a spectacular view of our solar system’s planets (pending time of year and date) and neighbouring stars. Keep in mind, a clear night is ideal for a visit to observatory. There is also the PowerHouse Museum for those keen on the sciences and things that move. 

As mentioned before, the Sydney Opera House is also excellent for a night a frivolity and laughs.

I’m still on the hunt for other places to visit on a rainy day, but that’s my list for now.

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Hiking in Brisbane: Up, up, up to Mount Coot-tha

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An open view of Brisbane atop of Mount Coot-tha’s lookout.

A trip to any city almost demands a visit to the highest point to see a birds-eye panorama of the city. Brisbane is no different.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Distance: 4 kilometres, return
Conditions: Some shade

A visit to Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers a view of the city’s sprawling downtown core, greenery and winding rivers. On a clear day, you can see Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Islands from the lookout.

I always find it interesting to see how a city develops and expands outwards, from the pocketed areas of parks and protected natural woodlands, to the suburban development as families continue to grow. It’s a reminder of how small you actually are in the grand scheme of life and in the world.

To reach the Mount Coot-tha Lookout, visitors can either drive, bus, bike or hike up to the top.

For hikers, the trail begins at the J.C. Slaughter Falls car park and picnic area which connects to the Summit Track. The track itself is moderately graded and suitable for many levels of fitness. It takes around an hour and a half going up, and 30 minutes back down again, making it roughly 4 km there and back. What makes the hike difficult is usually the blazing sun during the summer season.

Though dogs are allowed on the track, they must be on a leash. Horses and bikes are also permitted on designated tracks that are clearly labelled. Toilets can be found near the picnic area and at the top of the lookout, and there are water fountains interspersed along the tracks.

Lookout aside, you have the option to make it a day trip by swinging by the Brisbane Botanical Garden and adjacent Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium located near by.

The Brisbane Botanical Garden, not to be mistaken for the city’s downtown garden, is a host to many subtropical flora found in Australia. Separated into different areas, from the fossil and primitive plants to exotic rainforest, the pathways connect each section across 52 hectares. Other areas include the bamboo walk, open eucalypt forest and bunya forest.

There are optional free mini guided and bus tours, gardening workshops, children’s story time, and more.

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Urgh, spiders. One of nature’s beautiful yet creepy creatures.

Be warned, for all the lovely plants and flowers that can be found at the botanical garden, there are as many (not-so-)lovely spiders weaving their webs across paths. It’s not surprisingly to walk through a few webs, especially in the early morning after a night of furious activity. As someone who is cautious of spiders (due to multiple run-ins and close calls with venomous spiders in the last few years – brown recluses, black widows, and white-tailed spiders to name a few – urgh), the size some of the spiders can become is quite alarming. I admit even dandy long-legs, though harmless, unnerve me now.

That said, the botanical gardens is a beautiful area to relax, have lunch or even take a nap on its many sprawling lawns. Wear comfortable shoes because even though it is a garden, there is quite a fair distance to cover.

Connected to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens is the planetarium. Though small, it offers educational panels, models and informative programs for children and adults. The planetarium winds in a circle with smaller rooms leading to other sections, including the Cosmic Skydome, Display Zone, Mini Theatre, Observatory, and the Galaxy Gift shop (with fun toys!).

There are many presentations hosted throughout the week, some free and some at a cost. There are also package deals if you plan on having a longer visit and want to view more than one presentation. Some regular shows are: Cosmic Collisions, Dynamic Earth, the Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (for children) and Tycho to the Moon (another children’s show). Depending on the time of year and what’s happening in the galaxy, shows can be changed or added.

 

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Hiking in Sydney: Scenic World Blue Mountains

 

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The Three Sisters at Blue Mountain in New South Wales, Australia.

The trails range from easy to hard, but the views are spectacular at Blue Mountain’s Scenic World.

Difficulty: Range from easy to hard
Time: The shortest trail is around an hour, the longest six. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take all day covering all the trails
Length: 10 minutes to a full day
Conditions: Some paved/wooden paths, others using nature’s rocks

Sydney’s Blue Mountains Scenic World is a tad out of a way but it’s definitely worth the trip up north in New South Wales. There’s a trail for every level from easy to hard, but make sure you keep a map with you or know where you’re going, or you may end up taking a harder trail then expected. The Furber Steps, for example, is much easier going down than it is going up – much, much easier. As friendly as the trails are, some sections of the walkway aren’t wheelchair accessible and it’s recommended to speak to staff before hitting the trails.

There are various starting points that all interconnect with one another, but once you are at the bottom you can either hike your way back up or go take either the railway, skyway, or cableway back up to the top…

For more, visit BreakingMordern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Manly to Spit Bridge

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One of many lizards along the Spit to Manly Trail.

It’s a mix between bush and trail that connects well-used beaches, but it’s the view and proximity to nature that I particularly enjoyed during the hike from Manly to Spit Bridge.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 2 to 4 hours
Distance: 10 kilometres, one way
Conditions: Some shade

After a few stormy nights, a nice walk is always welcome. The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is one of many trails enjoyed by local residents and tourists alike for its views and access to local beaches. The trail is open both ways (obviously) but most people begin at Spit Bridge and head towards Manly as there is more to do once you arrive at Manly, as opposed to Spit where there are many wharfs and boats. There is, however, a chance to hire (rent) a kayak/canoe for a period of time.

From Spit, the trail begins at the northern end of Spit Bridge and heads east to Fisher Bay and around Clontarf Reserve…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Bondi to Coogee, along the east coast shoreline

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Bondi Icebergs at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. An open concept pool connected to the ocean.

The best way to enjoy a part of Sydney’s gorgeous coastline is to walk along the coast – one such trail begins at Bondi Beach with its well-known white sands and clear water. Though it is known to be a tourist trap for many, if you’re looking for a nice easy walk for a lazy day, this is for you.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 to 3 hours, pending walking speed
Distance: 8 kilometres one way
Conditions: Exposed

Most begin this trip at the southern tip of Bondi Beach near the Baths and Bondi Icebergs, a concept in which a swimming pool in essence borders with the ocean and allows swimmers to enjoy nature’s waters without the elements and undercurrents of Mother Nature. It’s also something I’m in awe of, along with the deliciousness of Tim Tams, of which I’ve eaten far, far, far too many.

The easy trail winds its way from Bondi towards past Mackenies Bay towards Bronte. During portions of the year, there are usually art displays that line the pathway…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Adventures abound

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The 12 Apostles, one of the many stops along the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

All adventures begin as soon as you step out the door, not when you arrive at your preferred destination. That being said, whenever one intends to travel to a location taking multiple airlines and stopovers, it’s bound to create a few stories.

Long story short: the first flight was delayed which resulted into a mad rush to catch the second flight, in which one of the passengers had a medical emergency that resulted with all the other passengers stuck on board when we landed until the paramedics attended to said passenger, followed by a second attempt at becoming the Flash to catch our third flight that was 14 hours in duration. The third flight had an adorable baby on board, and for an overnight flight of that length, the idea of having a baby on board is cringe-worthy in itself. Needles to say, I was quite surprised when said infant remained quiet for most of the flight, only letting out a mild protest once when being moved, but was otherwise a happy little fellow. If only all children who travel can be that well-behaved! I am also happy to say all the flight attendants were a pleasure to associate with and happy to assist with any questions, which is not always the case.

Customs is as it always is: long and tedious, coupled with interesting folk and stifled laughter, while baggage was less of a nightmare than usual.  However, it’s walking through the gates and seeing family again after a prolonged period that makes the length of any trip worthwhile. Ok, that and the warm weather after an unusually cold winter on the other side of the hemisphere. Shorts and tees, here I come!

As with any trip down under, and that’s where I am if you haven’t gathered from picture above, there will be lots of outdoor activities (more of the hiking sort than beach lounging), eating, committing to the mandatory tourist ploys before heading off the beaten tracks, along with training in between with some senseis that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a previous trip, and catching up with family.

I currently train under an Okinawan-based martial arts known as Koryu Uchinadi, and will have the immense pleasure of learning from several senseis in Australia, including Hanshi Patrick McCarthy himself. If nothing else comes of this trip, I am looking forward to soaking up whatever knowledge I can from them, corrections and all.

Enough said for now, except allons-y!

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