Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Kettering Incident and Australia's most enduring UFO mystery - the disappearance of Frederick Valentich.

Frederick Valentich plaque at Cape Otway

"That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again .. it is hovering and it's not an aircraft". 

These were the last words ever spoken by 20 year old Frederick Valentich, the young pilot at the centre of Australia's most enduring UFO mystery.

In the early evening on October 21, 1978, Valentich left Melbourne's Moorabbin airport for a flight to King Island in Bass

Friday, 15 July 2016

Longwood Gardens and why you shouldn't go back to places!

The world is divided in two types of people - 'gardening people' who love nothing more than spending their time mucking about with dirt and 'non-gardening people'  who don't! Can you tell which one I am? 

David is a 'gardening-person'. He loves gardens. He spends hours and hours at home coaxing exotic plants to grow in our harsh Australian soil. In spring, when our quiet little patch of the planet lights up with colour it makes all the work worthwhile - or so he thinks.  I like gardens too - just not working in them!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Wintethur and the art of avoiding museums on your travels!

The world is divided into two kinds of travellers. I call them the 'museum people' and the 'spending an afternoon in a museum is my worst nightmare people' ('non-museum people' for short). Can you guess which one I am? It is not that non-museum people won't set foot 'ever' inside a museum (imagine coming home from Paris and announcing to your friends that you skipped the Louvre because it sounded boring!) it is just that in order to survive large museums you have to have a plan - and you have to stick to it.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail to Tudor Place and Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington D.C.

The Mount Vernon Trail in Washington DC runs for 18 miles (29 km) from Mount Vernon in the
Tudor Place, Georgetown, Washington DC
south to Theodore Roosevelt Island, just past Arlington Cemetery - click here for a trail map. Still jet-lagged and nowhere near as fit as we would have liked to be (are we ever!), we parked the car at Daingerfield Island about 7 miles from our objective at Georgetown. I know, I know 7 miles is pretty whimpy but we had just flown from Sydney,  Australia.

The sealed surface of the trail made the cycling easy - thankfully! Even the few small uphill sections slipped easily beneath the rhythm of our wheels. With a single interruption where we passed Ronald Reagan Washington Airport (I love airports as long as I don't have to arrive or depart from them) this section of the trail runs along the western bank of the Potomac River and has some beautiful views across the water. There is nothing like a nice view to make the cycling easier.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Washington D.C to Maine: - A road trip and cycling adventure.

The USA has some of the best off-road cycle paths in the world, thousands of kilometres of them, and we are on a mission to cycle as many as we can - well David is, I'm just along for the ride. Each year for the past few years we have flown our bikes over from Australia (don't get me started on the hassle of flying with bicycles), or sometimes bought cheap ones at Walmart, and set out to explore bike trails in different parts of America. Not being total masochists we also hire a car. Did you know it is possible to fit a car bike carrier into a duffle bag  - neither did I until we started this madness.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Gunston Hall - the home of George Mason, a man who refused to sign the U.S Constitution.

No-one can deny that the Washington DC area has many great tourist attractions. If you haven't been to the city before, you probably shouldn't miss sights like the Capitol, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Mount Vernon. There is a downside to all of these however - their very popularity transforms the experience. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by enough other tourists to populate a small European country, detracts a lot from the magic of the moment.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Market Fair Day at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Virginia.

On the third weekend in May 2016, David and I slipped through time and found ourselves deep in North America's colonial past. It was Market Fair day at Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia only 20 minutes drive from Washington DC. It was the year 1771, four years before the American War of Independence. The local townspeople had gathered to show off their wares, sell their produce and socialise with one another.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mount Vernon - George Washington's home.

Mount Vernon Washington DC
More than any other figure in American history, George Washington defined the U.S.  He is revered as a soldier, patriot and president  - he was also a farmer, husband, step-father (to Martha's two children) and slave owner.

Born in 1732 at Pope's Creek, Virginia, George Washington inherited the estate at Mount Vernon in 1761. Washington may have been commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (what in Australia we know as the American War of Independence), presided over the convention which drafted the Constitution of the United States and served two terms as the new country's first president, but it is Washington the farmer and family man whose spirit pervades the estate at Mount Vernon.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Shamwari Game Reserve - and the fastest animal on the planet!

130 kilometres per hour - the fastest animal on the planet. In the pre-dawn light, six pairs of eyes scanned the landscape for our quarry. This was his habitat - he had been seen two days before and last night there were fresh tracks. With twenty years experience as a guide, Frans was confident he knew the animal well enough to flush him out. We passed by giraffes and antelope with barely a glance, stopping only briefly to investigate two large grey shapes a few hundred metres from the rough dirt road. On any other morning we may have been excited by the white rhinos, but not today.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Surviving a riot at The Nekkies, Knysna

The Nekkies, Knysna
The plume of smoke rose hundreds of metres in the air, like a dirty tornado, as if  the weather gods were suddenly, unreasonably, angry with us. Then the traffic stopped. All we could see ahead was a long line of cars - and the smoke. We assumed there have been a car accident - a bad one. We were wrong! Judging by the sirens and all the emergency vehicles racing toward us it had not happened very long ago. Strangely, there were no ambulances - just police cars.

I wanted to wait it out but David doesn't do waiting very well.  It