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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Red Hill hits the screens

Its been a fair few Sid- Free- months in our little neighbourhood.

Our quiet street is quite sleepy most days but not today. At about 11 am this interesting duo came rolling down the road and stopped outside a house a few doors up. The duo are Julia Baker and her Scottish partner Johnny, who carries in the bags. Yes, bags to catch snakes in. The phone call from the neighbour brought Julia and a whole film crew who are filming the series Snake Boss for Animal Planet.

Julia reached fame when she decided she needed a change of career from a pastry chef and children's entertainer to a snake catcher and it is history after that. See below:

So I was invited in by the neighbour to watch two wonderful women, Mandy and Margie from flickchicks   www.flickchicks.com.au and their cameramen as they filmed the catching of one of the carpet pythons in the roof. They were there from morning to late afternoon and in all the takes and shooting they will have come away with a short film which will be used. It has given me a new appreciation of how demanding and difficult it is to make good television.

The other python was in the Mango tree just outside the house, quite high and we think he has just eaten a possum so was probably quite content to stay put for a while. 

The one in the roof proved quite challenging because even though he was sleeping quietly by the time the film crew got up and the lights went on he thought that he could slip away without attracting any further notoriety. This found Julia on the floor in her immaculate black outfit and should I also point out manicure, knee deep in snake poo and 100 year old dust as she rolled on the attic floor of this Queenslander. There were noises and squeals and an eventual cry for help as the slippery beast made to get away so John went up there for extra reinforcement and between the two of them they managed to get hold of it and get it into the bag. I have no pictures to show you of either snake though the programme will be aired on Snake Boss on Animal Planet sometime in October.

Julia said recently in an article: 

“My connection with snakes is that growing up I felt completely misunderstood, and I look at snakes and I know they’re misunderstood. People really need to see snakes for what they really are – instinctive animals, with absolutely nothing mean or evil in them,” Julia says.
A high school dropout born in Brisbane but raised in England and Germany, Julia fell in love with reptiles when she held her first snake, aged 40, at a Queensland theme park. She now has four pythons and three lizards as pets in her Eatons Hill home on Brisbane’s northside.

Misunderstood ? Hmm... So if in need of a snake catcher look out for Julia, her motorcycle and her bags- not quite LV - perhaps on the inside this time!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Look up, look down

Walking along the pavement on a Sunday morning I came across this which for reasons unknown moved me greatly. To start with I wasn't sure what I had seen, so I bent down to get a better look and there firmly embedded in the pavement was a "fossil" flower. Yes, I know, I have been watching too much Attenborough, but isn't this just delightful. It reminded me of the inlay work at the Taj Mahal and let me show you what I mean. You can see the light through it, the delicate fronds inside the flower which now lies on the a slab of concrete. Made my day.

One of the Taj inlays of flowers in precious and semi precious stone. This one taken by Alexander Lamont. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Perth City

This is my last posting about Western Australia. I have blogged about Perth before but since our last visit the city's foreshore has had a radical makeover and it is worth noting this and sharing some of its changed views here. I have to say that we were not at all impressed by the architecture of houses as we travelled up the Coral Coast. The houses are all super big, f... off houses as I call them with tall gates and colonnades and sadly they remind me of the less attractive parts of the suburbs in Nicosia and Limassol. People with too much money and not much else. For most people, we have to acknowledge these houses are quite enough for a nice life, but not for what they do to the city or the city scape. 
Give me Queenslanders any day with their wooden boards and wrought iron work. But I have to give credit where it is due and the changes to the front will mean a lot more events and attractions for tourists and locals alike in Perth. The front is already buzzing with markets, shops and events held in the gardens nearby and actually it is quite spectacular and attractive. 

The 29 metre sculpture is called Spanda which according to its creator means divine vibration.
These are concentric rings which rise up to the sky signifying ripples on the water and the connection between sky, land and river.

The Perth skyline.

The new pedestrian bridges which connect the promenades, island and ferry terminals in an undulating and raised S form making a simple but iconic connection in the master plan for the redevelopment of the front.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Rottnest Island - off the coast of Western Australia

Lots of Dutch influence on this side of Australia as a number of vessels came across these shores in the 17th Century. Willem de Vlamingh named the island Rotte nest ( Rat's nest ) having seen what he thought were very large rats at the time but which were actually marsupials called a quokkas.

This is one of the few places that you will see Quokkas and this is what they look like.

The island is about 18 kms off the coast and the ferry journey takes you down the Swan River and past Fremantle Port to the open sea. The Ferry ticket offers you  the hire of bicycles for the day. Its the best way to get around the island.We came into the Island Jetty and headed off towards the furthermost point of the island - the West End - where we were hoping to see New Zealand Fur Seals. Along the way we stopped at coves and beaches, explored the bush land and raced each other. I came in second each time, on gentle undulating roads filled with bikers of all ages.

Arriving at West End we were not disappointed with the views of from Cathedral Rocks and and Eagle Bay. This is the exposed side of the island and the waves came crashing down on the rocks.

In amongst the bushes the King Skink which is special to the island.
The best bit of all was catching the fur seals playing. There was a whole group of them playing by a shallow shelf in the ocean below. Sadly my zoom cannot do justice to these magnificent creatures so they are nothing more than black specks here but we stood and watched them for a long time. They seemed like they were having the best time, rolling in the surf by the shelf and then pirouetting and diving with their flippers in the air, lying on their belly and giving themselves a good scratch under their armpits. A strange mix of loutish man behaviour mixed with ballets rhythms and delicate moves.

 This is a close up of these wonderful lumbering and limbering creatures. This one is winking at us.

Returning to the settlement in the evening to catch the ferry back we were given a right talking to by this island crow who had a very interesting beard and was as vocal as ever. He wanted a piece of our sandwich but we were too famished to share. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Against all odds.

So what do you get when you have red and desolate and wonderfully salty blue, with the occasional downpour -  Plants that are adapted for the driest conditions and the harshest of climates. They are nothing short of stunning. Perhaps needing to be so to attract the insects and the bees.

The first three pictures were taken of plants near Lake Thetis and on Rottnest Island growing in nothing but sand.

The pictures which follow are all from Kings Park - probably the most stunning botanical garden in Australia with an abundance of eucalyptus and gums buddleias, and all sorts of banksias.

The need to keep these coming back every year in those stunning colours is as much in the hands of the rain gods as us. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Shades of blue in Western Australia

The red and desolate is encircled by the blue and beautiful. So we decided we needed another view. 
We flew over the peninsula taking in the small town of Denham, then the unforgettably named Useless Loop, over the salt mines,  before turning into Zuytdorp Point cliffs and then flying over the westernmost tip of Australia on Steep Point and then back into the landing strip of Shark Bay.

I cannot say I was comfortable with going up in a small plane. The pilot was young - I asked him how many hours of flying time he had. It seemed like a fair number. To be honest I have no way of judging it and would it matter? The question is what happens in an emergency and I notice I kept referring to Zyutdrop and not Zyutdorp. Probably similar meaning in Dutch.  When we got back and he had piloted the plane beautifully he confessed he had only been in the area for two weeks. 

The nerves dissolved as soon as I looked down to see the unparalleled beauty of the reefs, the colour of the sea, in shades of green, turquoise and deep blue,contrasting with the burnt earth, the salt mines and finally the sheer force of the water against those cliffs.
Smiling - just about. 

The Coastline from the plane.

 The Salt mines near Useless Loop.
Zuytdorp Point Cliffs

The Westernest Point of Australia - Steep Point
A beautiful little outcrop.
Our young Indian Pilot Rav
 Coming in over the land - a red line straight through it.

Back on firm and red ground once more. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Red and Desolate

Travelling in Western Australia brought a number of issues into sharp focus for me. This is a vast, vast continent and so much of it is empty. We travel on the edge of the continent which even though remote, is near enough to some pockets of population and activity. Once you are away from this there is really nothing but red earth, flies and scrub land. (More of the scenery from above in my next blog.)

The land is harsh, inhospitable and difficult to eek out a living from it. I think of how inspiring a culture the First people of Australia are- they were on this land and found ways to make it work, to find the food where we would not even think of looking, to find the medicines in the bushes and the trunks of trees and to use all that the land and sea had to offer, to co exist upon it and have utter, utter respect for it. Sadly I suspect we don't have the same understanding and sensitivity about how to deal with the land and how we must take steps to look after it - it is really the only thing we have left.

I have given you pictures of the long and empty roads. These are punctuated by the occasional and welcome roadhouses where yutes, trucks, travellers and bikers stop for filling up their tanks and replenishing their food and drink. These are actually full of wonderful historical records of artefacts of bygone days, married to modern day requirements. 

We stopped at Billabong Roadhouse - a billabong is a branch of a river forming a pool of water flowing from the main stream during a flood. 

The roadhouse was full of memorabilia and tourist tat. But also some good food and meals served to hungry and tired travellers. Notice the modern day addition of Gluten Free Food on the side. We chatted to the lady who served us. She served for three weeks on and then took one week off to go back down to her family.To compensate for the lack of companionship a wall full of tats - tattoes this favourite of ozzie things, which I just have to share with you, if only for the one favourite that stood out on the wall. 

Its a lonely, empty kind of life and one which I don't envy but most of us zip through it without a second thought. They wait for the rains to paint the pastures green. Meantime, the sheep and cows, interspersed with a few emus, wander around the punishing and desolate landscape, looking for some food. The Stromatolites lakes I blogged about are another example of the desolate and extreme conditions which prevail. They are extremely saline. We saw virtually no bird life on them. The standouts were for 4 wedged tail eagles which were totally exceptional, hunting in amongst the scrub land which we saw on the road. 

So what does the future hold for these areas of Australia - very little I fear and unless steps are taken to reduce the effect of climate change the only thing I suspect which will thrive are the flies buzzing around your head. They find you wherever you are.You would have thought they would be the best reminders of the urgency of getting things done because it doesn't matter who you are they will not stop buzzing around your head. How about sending all politicians down there to see how long they would last amongst them! 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Sharks Bay - Cautionary Tales

You would have thought there is a clue in the name...

We arrive at Sharks Bay at our resort - well sort of - Western Australian holidays = motorhomes. Jeremy Clarkson and my husband's nemesis but our little room over looking the bay was nice enough.
The beach is beautiful, the sea is like a mirror. Reminds me of Famagusta but that is where the resemblance ends.

Tale 1

I go along to reception and ask if it is OK to swim along the beach.
Yes, says the receptionist who is of Greek origin - but if you see sea snakes dont touch them.
Oh I say, my eyes widening, and are there lots of sea snakes in the water here ?
Yes, a fair few and you will be surprised how many people see them and try and touch them.

Off I go and avoid the water for a while but the beach is wonderful and we enjoy the walk as the light fades paddling in the shallow and picking up some beautiful shells.

A little further away near the jetty we come across this lovely turtle.

Tale 2

Talking to one of the girls at the restaurant she says casually, yes the water is lovely but best wear reef shoes just in case there are sting rays in the sand and you don't see them.

I start wearing my reef shoes...

Tale 3

We book to go on a cruise and I say to hubby. Take the snorkels, we might get a chance to dive off the boat and swim around in the deep. The first sighting on the cruise literally metres from the beach was a tiger shark.

The eating habits of tiger sharks are summarised in this little paragraph below-

Tiger sharks are the badasses of the sea. They are very aggressive by nature and will stop at nothing to complete a hunt for food. A tiger shark will eat any type of fish, shark, animal, and small entity it can find in the water.This includes pieces of boats and ships, jewellery, clothing, tires, books, and more. If it finds its way into the water there is a good chance a tiger shark is going to dine on it.
So NO snorkelling on this cruise - but best of all was the sighting of a dugong which are the seas biggest herbivores. In contrast to the tiger sharks these guys are vegetarians, eating nothing but sea grass and of the gentlest disposition. There are approx. 10,000 of them in the bay but they are sometimes difficult to see. We enjoyed watching one coming up repeatedly near the catamaran.

I am learning the joys and challenges of exploring OZ. I survived this one intact. There were never truer words spoken then Bill Bryson's opening sentence in his book Down Under that Australia has more deadly things that can kill you than anywhere else in the world.