A Sydney Sojourn

Well, a lengthy travel layoff has meant a chance to catch up with Christmas, New Year and new work action, and planning for 2020 – as well as weather watching as months of  horrendous fires and now summer storms have kept too much celebration at bay.

So it was with much anticipation that the weekend of a trip to Sydney came around.  Expiring frequent flyer points and an urge to see the city again and visit a niece were the impetus.

The ping of the text messages at 3 am should have been the clue as to the weekend ahead.  Yes, our Jetstar flight was cancelled.  But after 2 hours of trying to get our reconfirmed booking details we propped up the eyelids and headed off.

And then along came the rain…….our drive from home to the airport parking, then the airport was a wakeup for LSM as he hadn’t encountered traffic snarls like that on the motorway before.

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However, we made it, Qantas eventually rebooked us all and we cranked up our Lunar Festival trip, found our driver Jeffrey at the other end, and arrived at our little apartment at Surry Hills to find Jeffrey had given us the wrong apartment number.  Once sorted, we found our bearings around Oxford and Golbourn Streets, supplemented ALDI’s profits and enjoyed the great location and a quick Chinese meal.

So to Friday – The wet weather started heading to the coast, and we headed for the umbrella stand up the road. Our 9am tour of the Opera House was drizzly but thankfully inside.  Having always admired the Utson architecture and engineering genius from the outside, it was a real treat to see the inside, learn about its history and see the contemporary changes.  It is an undeniable amazing feat!

From the Opera House Concourse we strolled under the new brollies to Circular Quay.  Here we saw the 12 Chinese zodiac sculptures all the way to the cruise ship terminal – all different and all a visual pop to announce the 2020 Lunar festivities.

Along the quay with its iconic ferry, coat hanger bridge sights were the plaques dedicated to well known Australian authors, poets and activist voices.  The seagulls and I read them all….umbrella unfurled!

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Of course our itinerary by this stage was disrupted, and we were now seeking indoor spaces, and were eager to travel on the very sleek light rail.  Senior concession for the Opal card was a handy $7.50 each for a 3 day pass which covered train, bus and ferry travel.  What a great deal!

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With each break in the weather we walked and gaped a tourist gape.  We headed to Martin Place and walked to the Reserve Bank Museum. Always something interesting to see here – dampened protests, beautiful garden beds and the car of the future.

Yes, it may sound less than riveting, but on the strong recommendation of friends, we enjoyed the Museum immensely.  It reflects the history of the Australian economy through its bank notes, and we learnt so much.  Quite fascinating and definitely worth adding to your itinerary.  Free entry as well.

Back to The Rocks and hopeful of the Lunar Markets, we were not surprised to see the wet weather cause its cancellation.  However, for my fellow gf ers, I discovered Old Time Bakery Buckwheat and Sorghum gf wraps.  Delicious and didn’t fall apart.  The find of the weekend!  It was at the small shopping centre that we saw a small blessing of the shops for Chinese New Year good luck.

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The Gallery of Contemporary Art was a midway stop.

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More tapping on and tapping off the Opal Card as we hopped on the train from Central Station to Holsworthy where our beautiful niece Kymberley met us and entertained us with her recount of recent adventures in Nepal, Fiji and family scootering skills….yes, her chin injuries are healing nicely!  😋

Leaving Syd, Damien and Sam to their own devices and pizza, we trained it back to Chinatown where we enjoyed more dishes, and then walked back to our digs in the drizzle – trying to keep our mojo motivated.

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Saturday was to be the Coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte, lunch at the beach and a relaxing gelato.  Well the drenching rain soon put paid to that, didn’t it.😎🌻

We went to the Museum of Sydney which was a great place to be on a damp Saturday morning.  Of course many families with unwilling children also claimed its sanctuary…….say no more.

Another big learning curve, with excellent exhibits and av around First Nations history, Cook’s ‘discovery’, colonisation, the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and contemporary Sydney art scene – the chess set of the Luna Park characters was a lot of fun, and Gollings photography of global architecture was superb. Another recommendation!

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When we came out, all hope of the coastal walk disappeared as the wet closed in, so we refigured again, and off we went to Paddy’s Market where the highlight was the spices LSM bought to add to his culinary experiments once home.  Lunch, then waiting for the light rail to travel a few lines we hadn’t seen.  Drenching rain, full carriages and dripping umbrellas everywhere.  We got to Fish Market station and decided to return to the city, only to find that at Convention Station the line ahead was flooded so we all had to disembark…..😁

So our final activity was the stroll with umbrellas up, then down, then up around Darling Harbour.  We did get the ice cream that had originally been planned for Bondi….lol.  Lots of new architecture everywhere.

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So we went back and read…..then a taxi back to the airport yesterday, flight not cancelled thankfully, and the drive back home to green grass knee high and lots of weeds and fungi greeting us.  Home sweet home!

Our 2020 house improvement project of the hallway, dining room and kitchen floor reno well underway in our absence.  Though we are batching in the back of the house this week until it is completed.

Soggy Sydney, but we did get to see lots.  Back in October for that Coastal Walk.

Next travel adventure is Penang Foodies tour in April…..see you then!

 

Cloncurry and Home

Opinion seems to be divided about the current state of affairs in The Curry.  Some business owners want more to attract tourists to stay longer, and visit more often to more vibrant attractions and events, while some locals are praising the efforts of the current Mayor and Council.  You can never please all of the people all of the time I guess……and perhaps we can form our own impressions with a long overdue visit.

The 30 kms from Wynberg to Cloncurry are on good highway, with a couple of new road accesses being constructed in to mining exploaration sites.  Then we entered the township, which is not very green or inspiring to be honest.

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However, the chance to catch up with lovely local Mitakoodi woman, NF, was the highlight.  The Bakery certainly knows how to provide great soft bread, pies and coffees, so we nattered there with Nic before LSM went off to explore the cemetery and fuel up for the long drive back home.

Nic was a strong local advocate for the town and I loved the water tower with its 360 degree views and Nic standing under her nephew Barack’s painting by The Zookeeper was very beautiful.  The Coppermine Creek area holds lots of history of the Chinese community and the Aboriginal community, and we paid our respects at the graves still there.

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Leaving Nic, where she works hard supporting employment opportunites for locals in the mines and construction sites, was a wrench.  She is a dedicated young woman with lots of culture to share and will always be a very, very special friend.

Back at Wynberg, we watched the patience of cousin Robert teach E how to ride the aging but obliging horse, Lindsay.  E was over the moon, that in one short session, she was riding him around the yard, and loving it! Home made sausages were on the dinner menu.

Farewells in the early morning light were sad, but inevitable…….and we headed over the grid and bid farewell to our tough, kind-hearted family.

Lark Quarry and the only Dinosaur Stampede on the planet was the first stop a mere 4 hours plus down the highway.  The 110 km road from Winton did not really prepare us for the gravel and the dust in our sturdy sedan.  We were wishing for our Hilux ute that had served us well on other offroad trips.  But the trip out and back was worth it.  Again E was gobsmacked!

Then it seemed like a doddle to reach Longreach, the swimming pool and time to prepare for the Stockman’s Dinner Show……yeeeha and steak to die for!  Again E was happy! We treated ourselves to a motel Abajaz brekky, then packed the boot and were on our way again.  Luckily E downloaded a few comedies to while away the endless miles of road and clouds and silence.

Luckily we had chosen to leave a visit to Blackall for the way back, and it was a great little town – vibrant and very visitor friendly!  Its photos of the local identities on each of the letters leading in to town is SPECTACULAR!  The Black Stump; Behind the Black Stump and Beyond the Black Stump also were a hit.

Then we pulled in to Augathella and discovered a surprisingly large, comfortable and cool family room at the motel.  Patchy wifi meant reading……..perfect! We managed to forage the one remaining cooked chicken in town and found a few great locally made salads to round out a tasty dinner.  Meals have been diverse and just the trick.

Final leg of the long haul……Augathella (Well done Amby on the Scar Tree historic site – looks great) to Toowoomba……and home to find the deep colours of the clivias. Gardening repair beckoned, but the wave of exhaustion and exhilaration won the day and we all dozed off dreaming of the days in The Outback.  E was glad to be out of the car with only an hour to drive back to her home on the morrow.

Congratulations to LSM for the fantastic job of the driving, and to E for fitting in with our quirks and we with hers.  The adventure is over…..for now.

Wynberg

When you plan to show a younger person Outback Queensland, the obvious destination for us is Wynberg.  This pastoral property lies about 30 kms south of Cloncurry on the highway heading to McKinlay.  The entrance is a classic!  Many years ago, a cement load was lost near the entrance gate and couldn’t be retrieved because of its weight.  It has had a few artistic designs, but the contemporary one smacks of Etamoogah Pub flavour.  It is certainly a helpful and happy entrance marker.

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Why Wynberg?  Well childhood cousin connections continue as lifelong Woodgate family threads.  The Chaplains continue to provide the most hospitable welcome and varied experiences for city slickers like us, and we love getting back to the bush with them.  Thanks C&D.

So we arrived at the gate after the Age of Dinosaurs adventure about 11 kms west of Winton.  It was a quality time in the fossil laboratory, then a short shuttle ride to the Canyon where the 5 displays overlooking the vast plain were very intiguing, then a lunch practising our Aussie Fly Salute, and finally the Collection Room where the real fossils of Banjo, Matilda and Wade showed the dimensions and possible characteristics of our Australian Sauropods.

E is now looking at a career in palaentology!  She had heaps of fun……..and armed with the classic icecream, we continued on the Matilda Highway towards that cement marker.

How wonderful to hug my dear cousin and see the homestead and property regenerating after the horrendously damaging floods earlier in the year.  2019, though not the unprecedented event touted by the media, has been a tough one for the northern graziers and farmers.  However, the resilience is real!

Wynberg, under the skills of D and family, and under the always welcoming smile and classic home-making talents of C, has a well-deserved reputation for the consistently high quality of its beef, and the friendly support for transient workers from around the world.

So E soon swung in to routines of feeding the pigs, chooks and dogs – shown with enthusiasm by young grand children who visited from Cloncurry.  E tucked in to a yummy Shepherd’s Pie with gusto after the long day’s drive, then was chuffed to find herself like a princess, ensconced in a comfy bed in the same room her mother had occupied with her cousins on a childhood visit back in the day.  During that long ago visit, the 4 girls were convinced they saw the Min Min lights…and the evidence could be right!!!!!

A bush holiday highlight is making billy tea and damper twisties, so off we went to meet D who was doing fencing repair.  Always tastes better in the open air.  Such fun for E.  Flies were noticeably absent….thankfully!

More visitors arrived and the afternoon adventure was to go gold panning.  There is currently an active mining exploration not far from the homestead – not something C&D are ecstatic about, but don’t have any say about under the laws of the land.  With a bit of dirt gathered from the dry flow area brought back to the homestead, all the eager visitors, including E, were anxious to strike it rich.  LSM preferred a beer!  E ended up with two tiny, tiny specks which now are in the jar to take back to share at home.

Dinner is always a feast at Wynberg, as C is a deadly cook.  Pork chops marinated in yoghurt and spices, and a medley of roasted vegies capped off the day.  E has the run of the movie collection, so while the men watched the footie, we girls watched Smiley – the movie of the Augathella fame.  What a good look back at a simpler time.  We all loved it!

Yesterday the adventure continued with C coaching E in the making of banana cake, which was downed warm with melting butter as our lunch treat.  The afternoon was a relaxed one with board games and more movies as a reward for the gardening work repotting, and planting around the house tank.  A wander down with E to feed the pigs meant running the gauntlet through the curious and close herd of young bulls….E was stoic and we managed it ok.  Delicious bacon and egg and salad rolls for dinner had E back in the kitchen learning the ropes.  She is eating and sleeping so well!

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Picnics and the return of two sons and family today will bring more adventures.  Wynberg is so relaxing!

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Augathella fella

With Day 1 done and dusted we cracked on.  Augathella was the first stop and we broke out the pizza pieces and esky edibles at Meat Ant Park.  For a tiny town with little to keep the economy buzzing, it was a delightful early morning visit.

 

Meat Ant meets E.

There is a distinct pride in this community.  The wide street welcomes visitors to its historic attractions and there has been a big effort to produce many visual features.

LSM was pleased to be reminded about Smiley.  M’s efforts to assist a friend with her Creevey family tree, were rewarded with the discovery of the author of the Smiley story.  And here was the tribute to him.  We stop here overnight on our return, so it looks like a trip to the cemetery to forage further.

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Thanks Augathella for such a gentle, friendly start to the day.

Then came to rolling flat plains, endless shrubby vegetation and clear, rainfree skies as we headed towards Tambo.  Teddies here we come!

E was in her element at the famous Tambo Teddies outlet which dragged this tiny community back from the brink of death.  The initiative to use the wool from local producers to create distinctive Teddy Bears was embraced worldwide and has seen a turnaround in all things Tambo.

E chose Mt Pleasant Percy as her lifelong bear companion.  The Mt Pleasant is for the local property and Percy seemd to fit percyctly!  With her purchase registered on the database, and hugged to within an inch of his life already, we strolled next door to Maggie Mae’s coffee shop.

Here was the intriguing story of an extraordinary horse.  The footpath in this mid-morning peace was suddenly alive with friends arriving for the local book club.  What a great way to use the local venue.  LSM enjoyed his coffee too!

Continuing along the Landsborough Highway, we passed an emu mother and her chick pecking beside the road, plenty of road kill of unsuspecting roos, slight variations in vegetation and wispy cloud formation in clear unrelenting skies.  The occasional Trivia Signs help keep the boredom at bay.

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So we rolled in to Barcaldine for a picnic lunch.

We cracked out the corned beef which had acted as frozen ice in the esky and produced the best boiled egg, tomato, avacado, cheese, onion and corned beef sangers!  Even my gf bread behaved and didn’t fall apart.  We supported the local shop, and then strolled to the legendary Tree of Knowledge, the Shearers Walk, and the Artesian Memorial.

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E learned lots, was bewildered and couldn’t understand why anyone would poison the tree, and then tinkled on the public piano located near the well-watered park strip.  Barcaldine continues to display its heritage with quality information and pride. This was a great stop.

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It seemed like a downhill run from Barci to Longreach….and it was in the scheme of road tripping.  The sight of the iconic stockman, and the big Jumbo at the QANTAS founders museum meant we were there!

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We had a very, very pleasant couple of hours exploring the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Hugh Sawery Art Gallery. The interactive nature of the exhibits and the quality of the various themed sections is outstanding.  We had not been for many years and enjoyed seeing the contemporary additions.  Particularly powerful was the individual voices of the Aboriginal stock pioneers telling their stories.  Great to see the recognition given to their integral contribution.

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Time for a swim in the very comfortable family budget Abajaz motel pool…..freezing water which was unexpected, but most refreshing.  Again our esky provided a basic meal and we plotted our course for the next leg, filled the water bottles and hit the hay after another big day in the saddle.

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Outback Bound

Traditions. LSM and I created the tradition of taking each of our grandies on an ‘end of primary school’ trip.  I believe it was an acknowledgement of the fact that we knew they would soon consider grandparents a bit boring and not in the league of their peers for fun or frivolity, so we thought a week or so on their own with us in a place in Australia of their choosing would be making memories for them.  And it has been fun!  A bit of trepidation with this one though…….

So that’s how we left Toowoomba bleary-eyed at 5.54 am (bleary car clock too) and started on Miss E’s chosen trip out west of Queensland.

She was fully equipped in the back seat with downloaded movies, mobile phone, personal snack esky, books, pillow and blanket…..a far cry from my childhood road trip days where my youngest brother was coralled on the front bench seat between Mum and Dad and the other 3 of us kids were sworn to not wriggling and pinching each other in the back….no snacks, no movies but plenty of rollicking singing, games of I Spy with my Little Eye and Number Plates or Riddles.  Marvellous memories actually!

So an hour down the road we had wound our way through Charlton and seen the newly completed road works outside Toowoomba which will revolutionise the heavy vehicle access to the west.  It’s been a few years since I regularly drove this way for work, so it was encouraging to see the progress of road repair which had held up traffic for so many years in the making.

The road trains, rail trains, silos for wheat, chick peas and other grains, the black soil plains for cotton and the Acland Coal Mine and its controversies all slid by on the one hour section coming in to Dalby.

Then on through Chinchilla, and our first stop at Miles.  Breakfast and a driver’s stretch.  Anyone for a nutritious twistie and fruit combo?  What had Miss E enjoyed so far?  Being asleep!

On the road again through to Roma (home of the bottle trees) for a fuel top up – petrol prices cheaper than in Brisbane – and our lunch stop an hour further on at Mitchell.  Miss E’s favourite part of this section?  The movie Madagascar!

Mitchell (home of the small annoying bush flies) has been diligent in keeping its park and toilet facilities watered and invitingly green.  Much appreciated.  Out came the well equipped (and new for the occasion) esky, and we tricked the flies while we made our sandwiches, and wandered the historic park and rated the toilets as ‘you beauty there’s paper’.

The food stop must have ignited the energy gland, because E started to ask questions and enjoy some of the scenery along the next section.  What an amazing country we are so blessed to share.  The ravages of weather patterns and political decisions have created a pock-marked landscape and a potted history.

In this International Year of Indigenous Languages it was pleasing to try a few of the local names and  imagine the sources and reasons for the Muckadilla, Mungallala, Dulacca, Yuleba, mixed in with the Morven, Mitchell, Charleville etc glimpses of European settlement.  Little country towns which grew up on the Cobb and Co coach routes, and then saw grazing and crops and rail and raw materials flourish and sometimes flounder.  More Googling needed.

So 7 plus hours after our departure, we rolled in to Charleville.  We had booked tickets for the 3pm Bilby Experience, and had time to book in to our accommodation at the historic Hotel Corones in Wills St (not without a slight upgrade once we learnt that the shared bathroom gig would not be wise).  What an echo of times past!  Fabulous silkyoak staircase, furniture, memorabilia, corridors and wide open verandah off the upstairs rooms.

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We strolled down to the Information Centre where the helpful volunteer plied E with maps and brochures to track tomorrow’s leg to Longreach.  Then to the Bilbies.  Informative, well-displayed, contemporary, entertaining.  The nocturnal house and the frenetic scurrying of the 2 bilbies on display chasing their crickets etc was mesmorising and E loved it.  Too quick to film in the dark.

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Back to the hotel after a saunter around the town to find its charms (including one of the painted silos now so much a tourist feature around Australia) and to see that the Thai cafe was closed on Tuesdays…so it was decided to book an early table at the hotel restaurant in time to get to the Cosmos Centre for the Star viewing booking.

As we prepared to head down to the dining room, we received ‘the call’ from the Centre cancelling the night’s session due to cloud cover.  Disappointment Plus!  Refund on its way 😣  Many other disappointed families in the dining room as well!

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The pizzas almost made up for it though.  Gf pizza supreme…yum!  The others had enough left for a cold pizza brekky or lunch…….we put it in the communal fridge.  It will be interesting to see if it is still there in the morning. 😁

A good first day on the trip…….now to show E how to come to terms with the smell of the mineralised bore water we will encounter from now on, and try to get the soap to lather.  Off to a well-earned sleep for our driver.

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Casablanca Climax

 

Well a rather bland view of Marrakesh due to stomach upset put a dampener on the end of my trip (tagine tummy maybe) and the chance to join the others in the Mdina and at the Mejewel Gardens.  However, by all accounts it was a couple of interesting hours of wanderings. All was back on track this morning for today’s final leg to Casablanca.

Sunday markets and appreciation for the wide avenues and many palms saw us exit Marrakesh and head through the various tolls on the well-surfaced motorways out of the city.  I liked the different overbridges and the rather desolate countryside.

A pleasant stop at a well appointed servo rest stop, a snack, pomegranite sellers, a military convoy later and we were soon entering the outskirts of Morocco’s financial and economic capital.

In fact, apart from few street rules, distinctive red taxis and the huge Hassan II Mosque, it could be any other large contemporary city.  But what an extensive complex.

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Built along the sea coast, the Mosque can accommodate 100,000 plus.  It offer families the soldity of faith and also the delights of weekend water indulgences and Sunday sundaes.

Of course Brahim made sure we saw the infamous Rick’s Cafe. Good on the tourist initiative that jumped on the popularity of the famous Casanlanca film – even if it wasn’t really the cafe at all.  Lots of murals decorate the newer buidlings.

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Like most major centres, Casablanca has lots of cranes across its skyline and progress is evident….hey, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut are progress in every language aren’t they ????

A lesiurely spot of beachfront viewing and then a final chicken brochette on skewers and a street stroll for ice creams clinched the deal for this trip.

The large Hotel Danfa of course offers the many amenities westerm tourists expect, so we are finishing our Moroccan  adventure with a poolside breakfast tomorrow before the trip to the airport and the looooong haul back to familiar territory in Oz.

Safe travels to L&T who fly on to Barcelona for 5 days.  Thanks to Morocco Magic Travel and Brahim for the magic of the past 12 days.  If anyone is thinking of a Morrocan trip, we can give you the details.  It has more than met the expectations!

Our next adventure will be this coming weekend’s trip to Spring Bluff railway station as part of Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers adventure…..jet lag be gone!

On the Road to Marrakesh

A looong day in the saddle…..not the dromedary this time though.  The Prado saw us all rotate seats for comfort and viewing during the many hours on the road from Dades to Marrakesh.

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First a drive through the gorge to see the Monkey Toes rock formation…….the light threw up the varied colours of the rocks and was a very pleasant way to start the day.

The country relies heavily on tourism and the tipping culture now entrenched.  The drive through towns themed to draw tourist interest saw the Rose valley with its industry of rose related products for perfume, pot pourris and cosmetics.  Agriculture to supply local domestic needs intermingles with the specialty areas.

Then it was the film industry which has seen more than 20 films produced in this Atlas mountainous and desert landscape.  There is a Museum dedicated to the film industry and not far down the road is the Studio where the film lots and the sets are ready for the next opportunity.  Some sections of films such as The Jewel on the Nile,  Gladiator and more recently Game of Thrones are on the list.

The day’s walking highlight was the UNESCO oldest fortress village at Ksar Ait Ben Haddur.  The walk with our local guide and traditional Berber family member, was across a bridge over the dry river and through the tourist stalls up to his family home used in summer.  The village originally had 57 Berber families and 13 Jewish families.  Now there are no Jewish families and only 5 Berber families who come and spend the summers here, while living, working or studying elsewhere during the rest of the year.

UNESCO has guidelines as to what restoration can be done to maintain the integrity of the original.  The cool temperature inside the house was very welcome, and it was interesting to see the traditional key used to secure the houses. (Not the contemporary key, but the nails at the end of the piece of olive wood which locks the door cunningly from the inside).

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The hairpin bends and switch backs on the pass over the Atlas range was definitely an experience as the many, many road works made for narrow passing opportunities and some hairy moments.  Fortunately Brahim is a very experienced and adept driver….and kept us entertained with his music and sense of fun!

T and LSM managed to keep track of the cricket Test match during the day, so they were happy.  The mountains were majestic and the changes of scenery kept our minds off the stiffness in our rumps.

The first impression of Marrakesh dispelled the romantic hollywood exotic vision I had in my head.  We were bombarded by the International Golf Courses and motorbikes and cyclists galore, congested traffic and a lack of parking for us to access the old city and find our riad for the next two nights.  We met Brahim’s brother along the way, and walked without much grasp of the route or directions to Riad Bellamane.

I love the decorated ceiling in the dimly lit room, and the pool and courtyard will get a workout later.  An oasis in the midst of the clamour outside.  Only one day to see what Marrakesh has on offer so only time to see the highlights.

Dades – a Donkey kind of day

A reflection day today………..

Pros and cons of a 13 day tour in Morocco:

.  Get to see a huge amount of variety but also realise the sameness of things after a few days

.  Food is very much the same each day – as are the flies.  GF offerings are slim.

.  Riads are cool!

.  Having a driver who is flexible around our tastes and needs is so useful

.  Plumbing and availability and cleanliness of toilets does not always inspire – the toilet paper bins are definitely not easy to get used to

.  Need plenty of small change but not always easily acquired; moisturiser by the gallon and endless plastic bottles of safe drinking water.  Sadly there is no avoiding this pollutant.

.  Our last o/s trip with longtime travelling friends has been a bonus – moments of mirth and moments of awe and moments of memory making to recount over drinks back home in the future

Our day began back at the desert camp with a less than inviting windy morning, but after a bracing breakfast and being transported back to Cafe du Sud hotel, we were reunited with Brahim and were on our way to new scenery.

The chance to visit the weekly souk market was a reflective start to the day’s tripping – we were confronted by the good, bad and the ugly of trading and the need for survival tactics.  First world countries are unaware of the poverty and health issues when they campaign against various things from their comfortable homes….and we as first world tourists probably contribute to an oppressive economic state in blissful ignorance.

The markets were bustling and L finally got the majool dates she has been keen to find for ages.  We learnt lots about the livestock sales, donkey car park and the varieties and tastes of dates.

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I have reached that stage in our trip that the days and doings are blurring a bit and merging in to a kaleidoscopic mix.  It might also have something to do with the rather uncomfortable design of the middle seat in the back of the Prado.

Tom has been amazingly supportive of the 2 women who share the back with him, by taking the middle for the majority of the time.  His slimmer frame has definitely helped.  So we have no reason to whinge about the sun on our sides….but have done a bit…..sorry Tom!  We, and our tailbones, do appreciate your sacrifice!

Fossils.  An amazing look at local trilobite and ammonite fossils where they are polished and creatively turned in to furniture or functional trinket pieces.  So heavy, but so fascinating.  The old fossils then got back in the car….all a bit stiff from the dromedary experience of the previous evening.

We saw the old Jewish settlements and the abandoned houses when the establishment of the new Israeli state after the WW 2 holocaust saw most Jews answer the call and migrate to the Promised Land.

Roadside stores with Berber clothes in their colourful enticing dyes held a fascination.  The time had come to discard my faithful cloth bag from Mexico’s trip as it had served me very well in size and softness – just the perfect size for the tablet to fit in.  There in front of me was a  bright red Moroccon leather bag which did the trick.  So it was a happy hello and transfer of my various bits and bobs and a farewell to my well-used friend.

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L’s recommendation of the tagine lemon chicken was my choice for lunch.  The flies were bloody horrendous for the first time, but we didn’t let them win!

The Gorge of Tinghil was another surprise.  It showed the ferocity of sudden and forceful storm water and the gouging out of the rock to form a very popular climbing venue.  The whole country relies heavily on tourism, and every opportunity is grasped.

More scenery to be inspired by as we drove between the Atlas mountains and on to the Hotel Aluca at Dades.  Very different from the riads, this accommodation was themed with very southern African artefacts and a rather offputting skeleton fossil under perspex in the corridor on the way to the rooms.

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Opted for a bland and small dinner from the buffet after the lunch tagine….and a warning not to eat the fish.

And yes, more challenging plumbing before separating the enormously wide bed to avoid cracking shins on the quite lethal wooden and cement bed surrounds.  Sturdy is a mild description, but the lads enjoyed their first beers in a while.  I am just grateful for Schweppes Lemon which I would not normally have at home.

And so to slumber until the call to prayer will stir the morning at 5.30.

 

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Mezourga Desert Delights

Well……what can I say.  Morocco is throwing us many curve balls.  The descriptions in the itinerary just do not do justice to the array of different sights, sounds and smells along the way.

Our drive from Midelt saw changes in the geological time scale which my basic photography was unable to capture well.  However here are my attempts to capture the strata, the High Atlas mountains, the passes and the valleys and oasis.  Way beyond the simplistic descriptions of primary school geography lessons….though they have stood me in good stead.

Date palms laden with the yet to be tasted fresh dates and the glimpses of eucalypts are everywhere.  The Ziz Valley Oasis is HUGE!

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Roadside coffee and cigarette stops for Brahim are always interesting, and there are plenty of pulloffs to take photos or admire the fossil sellers near Efoud – B’s home town.

Arriving at Riad du Sud late in the afternoon gave us a bit of exploring time around the complex, watching the moon rising etc before the poolside dinner with accompanying local music.

Not a bad day’s adventure before an early morning sunrise shoot including animal tracks from the depths of the night.  And today there was more in store as I sat waiting under an olive tree in the courtyard to get a bit of wifi connection.

Local driver Mahammoud collected us and we bounced our way behind the sand dunes and through the gibber plains and changing landscapes of mining country.  We saw flamingoes in the distance on the lake, and watched the large numbers of camels slowly lumber towards their family areas.

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Fascinated by the date palms in the nearby oasis, we learnt about the irrigation roster for the small market garden plots which lie in and around the vast tracts of palms.  There were plentiful supplies of okra, corn, capsicum, stone fruit and almond trees.  The rather exotic Garden Cafe was a hit….and we saw a novel way of displaying your business card.

The now defunct lead mine; military installations near the Algerian border; local fossil finds; and a fascinating visit to the local bedouin family for mint tea and a chance to learn about their cemetery practices – and fleetingly see the desert fox in their tent before it tucked its ears in; African dancers, then the Nora Cafe for  Bedouin pizza for the non gfs among us and a delicious vegetable tagine for me.

With a  few hours to kill in the afternoon before our scheduled camel ride up the sand dunes to watch the sunset, we made good use of the pool and poolside entertainment of the young group of Spanish partygoers.

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The dromedary (NOT known as camels here) ride produced mixed reactions from our little troupe.  Going up was all fun and photos – including the stereotypical shadows on the dunes.  Sadly one lady on a smaller camel at the back screamed in fear and had to be removed and taken back on a quad bike…..!

The walking up the steep incline from the camel resting spot was a challenge, especially for LSM, but the 45 minute quiet time at the top watching the sun gently melt in to the horizon under the clouds was well worth the sand blasting from the wind and the slipping and sliding to get there.

Aaah, but the going down was a different ball game!  The strain of holding on for dear life while the camels lurched forward and downward took its toll on one of the group.  One vowed in loud and frequent tones …never again!  And one got stuck getting off at the end because his hips seized up.  And one loved it!  My face covering and the easy gait of my one-humped friend and comfy saddle might have helped!  It was me….I loved it!

We walked, hobbled, or limped in to the desert camp after the ride and were sooooooo impressed to find the luxury glamping description in the brochure was really true.  The tents were outfitted with a roomy ensuite, and separate toilet, and the bed and living space was terrific.  So many cushions with bling it looked like a film set.  A hot shower and shampooing the sand out, and we were ready to tackle the amazing buffet Moroccan style.

After such a long and active day, the chance to choose our own meal from such a wide choice was bliss.  We waddled back to our tents and settled in for a well-earned sleep on the comfy beds when the drumming entertainment started.  Many encores later it stopped at midnight.  LSM managed to drift off well before then.

What an adventure!

 

Midelt

A leisurely breakfast at Riad Sara included gf bread……..couldn’t resist keeping a bit for later.  What a treat!  Fes was left far behind as we settled in to the Prado for another adventure on the road.

Surprisingly our first stop was just on the roadside to see the monkeys squabbling, and then more at the National Park where once the biggest cedar tree stood proud and tall.  While the monkeys thrive on tourist peanuts, the cedar has sadly died.  Good to see so many families enjoying the natural wildlife and cedar forests though.

Being in the drier north of Africa I didn’t really expect lions, but an ice cream stop in Ifrane set me straight.  The somewhat rough statue of the reclining lion is a tribute to the animal king’s demise in Morocco due to being hunted to protect livestock.  This winter ski resort attracts the rich and offers chalet style architecture to reduce snow damage. A well-heeled town.

Being in such a small group of 4, we can take our time and go off the beaten track as the mood takes us.  Brahim detoured to a peaceful lake and we shared some serenity with a few sheep – both human and four-legged – and a few birds. Am not sure Thomas Hardy had this in mind when he wrote Far From the Madding Crowd but it certainly fitted the bill.

Agricultural pursuits, particularly the apple, quince and cherry orchards; crossing the Middle Atlas mountains; and seeing the dogs patiently wait on the roadside for possible food scraps from passing buses, as well as the herding of the many sheep kept us curious and entertained along the route.

Lunch at a relatively new hotel/restaurant  was a refreshing stop, and only a short drive from the Riad Timnay which had a fairly traditional exterior.  The relative isolation about 20 kms from Medilt meant that we had time to explore the surrounding plain.

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The signs to the Ecological Park and the Prehistoric Site were a lure and the intention was a quick look and then a swim before dinner at the complex’s restaurant.  An hour and a half later we had walked far and self-guided ourselves to the lake with its aquatic reeds, birdlife and quiet location nestled amongst the grapes, orchards of olives, almonds and plum trees.

The Parc complex appeared to be incomplete, but we ventured on and discovered the most amazing array of mineral samples in situ along paths on a higher ridge.  Fascinating examples of quartz and various fossils were lying exposed to the elements, in what has been a substantial geological exercise in discovering the varieties and ensuring their positions and value are protected from the elements.  What an afternoon find!

Then we saw the amazing plain and what we believed was the prehsitoric site…….but unsure as the signage did not continue past the lookout.  The High Atlas mountains were hazily defined in the distance and we knew that was to be our destination tomorrow.

The walk back was steep and rocky, and the lure of the pool had gone as the cooler wind came in.  Perhaps an early morning swim might be a possibility….or not!

Another amazingly diverse day done and dusted.

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