In Praise of Solo Travel in Italy for Women

Solo Travel In Italy For Women

Italy is the perfect place for solo travel for women. But when I told people that I had recently travelled through Italy myself, they looked at me in disbelief and the usual response was — “ Well, that takes balls. I wouldn’t do that.”

But why not?

Travelling solo is a liberating and exhilarating experience. It fills us with a sense of adventure, opens our minds and relaxes the soul.

Interestingly, the majority of tourists that I saw in Italy were aged 40 plus. And the majority of those were women. But I rarely saw women in this age group travelling alone outside the major cities.  My first thought was – there must be a hell of a lot of women sitting at home because they couldn’t find anyone to travel with.

If you have someone that you enjoy travelling with, that’s great, but if you don’t, then it’s is not a reason for staying home.

But as women we are afraid to travel alone because of a bag full of fears that include:  fear of loneliness, fear for our safety, fear of the social stigma that brands an unattached woman, organisational fear – how will I be able to organise a whole trip by myself and how will I know where to go and what to see?

The first step is to decide – it’s my time now.

I get to choose where to go and what to see. That, in itself, is pure pleasure.

Italy is such a welcoming country and Italians are very gracious and courteous. I wasn’t hassled or made to feel uncomfortable or strange.  And whenever I asked for assistance or directions, no matter how busy the people were, they would always take the time to help me. Language is also not a problem as many people speak English.

Loneliness

There are times when you wish you could share your experiences with someone and that you feel lonely. No question. But Italy offers so many distractions and compensations. The first thing you can do is go out and buy yourself a gelato or some delicious street food. Then you take a walk down a medieval street, lose yourself in a busy market, gaze at glorious paintings and marvel at the magnificent buildings. Being filled with the beauty of Italy does wonders for loneliness.

Then you remind yourself that if you were with someone else, you would lose that most precious and rare pleasure – the freedom of not having to compromise. Not having to fit in with someone else’s plans. Not wasting time visiting monuments because that’s what the person you are with wants to do, when all you want to do is drive through hills covered in olive trees. You get to do exactly what you want and it is something you probably haven’t done in very long time.

Keeping a diary of your travels is an excellent way of dealing with loneliness. There is a joy in writing things down, capturing them. And that remains as something you can always refer to.

One of the most memorable days I had was sitting on a roof-top terrace gazing out over the boats in the harbour, the sun shining on the water and the bright red geraniums, drinking a cold beer and writing happily in my travel diary.

I also found that when you are travelling solo, people tend to strike up conversations with you more readily than if you are in the closed confines of a couple or a group. So you are always meeting people and chatting.

Safety

Italy is very safe for women travelling alone. I was able to walk around the streets, go to cafes or to dinner and return late at night and was not molested or bothered. Perhaps young girls might have to fend off advances, but for women over the age of 40, it’s just not a major issue. I had also been warned about pickpockets in Palermo, but had no trouble.

Social Stigma

Actually, no matter where I went in Italy, I never hesitated to go into restaurants to eat lunch or  dinner alone. To be asked in Italian by the waiter at the entrance if you are dining ‘solo’, doesn’t sound as pathetic as being asked – “Is it just you?”  as happens in Australia.

I have written about the problems of eating out alone in Australia in a previous blog. (https://womangoingplaces.com.au/women-dining-solo/ ‎). When overseas, it becomes much easier because you really don’t have to worry about what other diners think.       You are a tourist.

“ I’m having a great time – so who cares what people think!”  If at our age, we still don’t live our life the way we want to because we are afraid of what people will think, then perhaps it’s time to ditch this barrier.

Another blessing of overseas travel is anonymity. No one knows you, so you don’t have to live up to any image or expectation.

As to the question of where to eat?  You may have a good guide book, but  several thousand other people have that same guide. I find the most effective way is to brazenly, but politely go up to a local and ask them  “ Could you recommend a good place to eat around here?”  Italians know and love good food, so you can bet they have their favourite places. All the most sensational meals I had came about because I just asked the locals.

Organising The Trip

If you are unsure of how to go about it, then certainly get a travel agent.

You may also decide to spend part of your trip in an organised tour and the other part on your own. Another option is to take a short course as a way of connecting with other travellers. For example, there are Italian language and cooking courses available throughout Italy.

The internet has made organising your trip very feasible. It is however, time consuming. You need to start as far in advance as possible. Do the research and make the comparisons.

Finding hotels is made easy by websites such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Trivago. One of the useful features on most of these hotel booking sites is that you can make a reservation on a room and not have to pay a cancellation fee until as little as two days in advance. This is great if you are not sure of your itinerary. It means you pay a little more for the room, but the flexibility is worth it. Just make sure to check the date by which you must actually pay for the room.

If you don’t mind taking chances, then there is usually some last minute availability on hotel rooms closer to the date because people cancel their reservations. The prices are usually also cheaper then. But it is a bit of a risk and not advisable if you like things organised in advance.

The major cities in Italy – Rome, Venice and Florence, need to be booked well in advance due to the very heavy demand in high season. If possible, it is generally advisable to avoid high season for any travel in Italy as that way you can avoid the crowds, queues and heat.

Knowing Where To Go

The advantage of tour groups is that they have experienced guides who take you around. But you can travel solo and organise your own guide. By googling for local guides, I hired a local guide in each of the major cities I visited. The 4 guides I found were outstanding. They were all women who were official Italian guides, had a breadth of knowledge, accommodated themselves to what I wanted to see, and were very pleasant. Their English was excellent. I will be giving the names of each of these guides when I publish the various posts about the cities I visited.

In addition, hotels and local tourist offices also offer lots of group tours that you can join for a day. And you can book these tours in Italy and not necessarily before you leave Australia.

When Things Go Wrong

Even with the best organisation, things can go wrong. For example, when Emirates kept all passengers on the tarmac for 6 hours because there was something wrong with the plane we were in, and consequently I missed my connecting flight; other flights were cancelled; the hotel which looked great on the website had a faulty sewer which caused the room to smell; my train to Florence was massively delayed by a fire on the line.   Being alone when these things happen may appear a challenge but in my experience, it wasn’t. Single status had no bearing on the re-arrangement of flights and the airlines’ responsibility. Rely on your own resourcefulness and often the kindness of strangers.

Getting Around

It is very easy and convenient to get around Italy using public transport. The train system offers high speed trains as well as slower ones, with good connections. The punctuality and frequency of the trains is usually reliable. Trenitalia (https://www.lefrecce.it/) is available for checking train timetables and booking tickets online. All this information is available in English if  you choose English in the top right-hand corner of their homepage You can even book from Australia and tickets booked in advance online are usually cheaper. This is a good a good idea as it avoids lengthy waits in queues.

You can also choose to fly instead of taking the train within Italy.

Unlike the rest of Italy, public transport in Sicily is bad. While there are lots of inexpensive flights to Sicily from the mainland, once you get there, there are few internal flights, poor train services, and the buses are very slow and often not available on Sundays. The only option for long distance travel there is with hired cars or taxis, and taxis can be very expensive. So instead of trying to  cover much of the island, you may choose a particular part and focus on that.  But don’t let that stop you from going there. Sicily is beautiful, as are the other places I visited in Italy.

The slideshow above gives you a glimpse of the places I visited  in Venice, Bologna, Cinque Terre, Florence and Sicily.

 

 

 

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Legendary Stockman of the Australian Outback, Luke McCall

 

The drover, stockman or ‘ringer’ and he is called, is an iconic figure in Australia. He has been immortalized in poetry, songs, folklore, paintings and literature. But there are few real drovers and stockmen left. Nowadays, these men of the outback have been replaced with road trains and helicopters.

Luke McCall, who passed away on 9th November 2018 aged 88, was one of the last iconic drovers. For over half a century he crossed the vast length and breadth of Australia with thousands of head of cattle and horses. He loved the life and the stock and never saw it as a life of extreme physical hardship, danger and isolation. In this profile she has written for WomanGoingPlaces, Patricia McPherson describes her soulmate and friend of fifty years, Luke McCall as  ” a legendary stockman whose name stands high right across the north of Australia.”  Editor’s note

 

I met Luke on the airstrip the day he arrived at Fitzroy Crossing in the Western Australian Kimberley in 1967. I was working as an itinerant nurse for the Australian Inland Mission and was there to put an esky of medical specimens on the mail plane when this tall handsome man dressed entirely in black came down the steps nonchalantly carrying his saddle over his shoulder, much as a city guy would carry his sports coat.  I was a bit blown away I can tell you – he was a very romantic figure and I have fond memories of having many suppers in his stock camp beside the campfire under a million stars and listening to the music of horse bells.

Luke McCall was born into a stock riding family at Nebo over the range from Mackay in Queensland in 1932. Aged 15 he threw his swag and saddle on the mail train and headed out west where he picked up a job as a ‘ringer’ (stockman) on Lorraine Station way up north in the Gulf on the Leichardt River.

For over half a century, Luke would live the life of a drover and stockman in the Australian outback. Droving meant spending each and every day in the saddle – often for nine months in a row. The work began at dawn and frequently there were night watches as well. No days off or spells.

Mustering

The working life of a stockman was seasonal. It started at the beginning of the Dry season in early April when the horses were mustered and broken in, more than a hundred on most stations. The head stockman would then allocate freshly employed stockmen their ‘plant’ – usually 10-12 mustering horses, some camp-draft horses and a night horse or two.

When all was ready, the stockcamp consisting of about 8-12 ringers, a cook, a horse tailer and the head stockman would ride out, accompanied by their pack horses and horse plant. This departing cavalcade was always an exciting sight.

They worked to a schedule in that they had to have x number of bullocks ready at such and such a spot on such and such a date ready for transport to the meatworks. These mustering rounds lasted about 3 months. Stock was mustered one day and ‘processed’ the next. Calves were roped and pulled up to the bronco panels and branded, ear marked, castrated, mothered up and let loose. Bullocks were drafted into a separate mob and held, fed and watered  until such time as they were picked up by the overland drovers or, since the 1960s, road trains. At the end of each mustering round the stockcamp would go back to the station for a brief break which usually coincided with the local rodeo or race meeting. By the end of the third round in late October it was far too hot to work cattle so the ringers rolled their swags and went south for the Wet season.

This was Luke’s way of life on several Gulf country stations; Kamileroi, Norfolk, Coolullah and Gleeson to name a few.

Overland Droving

Like most ringers he would take an occasional year off from the stockcamp to go overland droving. He made a number of droving trips from Camooweal to the Kimberley and back with the legendary packhorse drover Bruce Simpson with 1,500 head in hand.  These droving trips would cross 2000 kilometres of the harshest, hottest, most arid and most beautiful parts of Australia, from Western Australia to Queensland.

The droving life was almost sedentary compared to the thrills and spills of mustering wild cattle. It too started at first light when the mob slowly moved out along the stock route feeding all the way to ‘dinner camp’ where they were given a spell then a long drink of water and then moved out in late afternoon to settle down on good feed when it could be found.  The ringers, who had been in the saddle since dawn, took shifts in riding around the mob on night camp singing as they rode to settle the cattle.

There was always a risk that the mob could rush at night. In this case the night watch would be joined by the rest of the men who woken from their sleep, would grab their night horses which were always saddled and tethered nearby and ride to turn the lead back on itself to slow the mob down.

Indigenous Cattle Station

In the early 1970s, Luke was employed to set up a cattle station, Palumpa, 250 kilometres south-west of Darwin which was eventually to be run by the local aboriginal group. Starting from scratch this involved years of rough living camped on a waterhole until the homestead complex was eventually established. It involved catching and transporting wild bulls to the meat works for an initial cash flow and stocking the station with quieter cattle as well as horses. Luke made several trips to the Cloncurry horse sale where he would buy up to 100 horses at a time, dip them and truck them to Daly River, then drive them 120 kilometres to Palumpa single-handed. The ABC devoted a Big Country programme to the ‘Curry Sale’ which featured Luke.

Crocodile Dundee

This publicity was nothing compared to that which he received in 1977 when he rescued the man who was the real “Crocodile Dundee”. Rod Ansell had been stranded for eight weeks on the banks of the remote Fitzmaurice River after his fishing boat sank.  Ansell salvaged his two eight week-old bull terrier pups, a rifle, a knife and his swag and set up camp in the fork of a tree out of reach of giant saltwater crocodiles which threatened him and his pups. He shot those that attacked him.

Rod Ansell never counted on being rescued but Luke and his stockcamp made a once-in-a-lifetime visit to that area and found him.   When the story hit the press, Ansell was hailed a modern day Robinson Crusoe.  A book and a film To Fight the Wild followed. A subsequent Parkinson interview sparked the interest of Paul Hogan and led to the creation of Mick “Crocodile’ Dundee.

Writer

After his Palumpa years, Luke spent time working on Helen Springs and Wave Hill stations in the NT by which time stock work as he knew it was long gone and he was probably the last of the old time stockmen still standing. Jackeroos on quad bikes and helicopter mustering became the norm.

He retired in 1993 following a hip replacement and made a home for himself in Batlow in NSW. He turned his hand to writing a monograph, Before helicopters and road trains: What was expected of a stockman. It was printed by The Stockmen’s Hall of Fame in Longreach where it is still in print and remains a best seller. He has also written Stories from the Stockcamp which takes the point of view of stock that he has spent his life working with. In these stories, we meet a clean skin bull; Crooner the night horse; an outlaw bullock;  Ruadah a liver-coloured mule; Winnie a coaxer cow; Dove a breaking-in mare and Tarpot a bronco horse. As yet unpublished, these stories reveal his great feeling for and understanding of stock.

Drover’s Camp Festival

Each year Luke would look forward to the annual trip up north to the Drover’s Camp in Camooweal. He met up with old mates along the way from Wagga Wagga to Cloncurry where he was greeted with great affection by men he worked with and I dare say with great reverence by many whom he mentored when they were young. His name stands high right across the north – he is indeed a legendary stockman.

At one of these Drover’s Camps , a popular tribute was paid to Luke when Keith Douglas read out, in the best tradition of bush poetry, the poem he had written about Luke McCall:

Somewhere down near Brisbane
where too many people live
there’s an old retired drover
they don’t know who he is.
 
But up here on the northern runs
when your back’s against the wall
no better man you’d have beside you
than the legend Luke McCall.
 
From the Kimberley to the Curry
and all places north and south
he’s left his mark on many
 they all know without a doubt
the man who’s dressed in black
a red bandana ‘round his neck.
 
When it comes to clever bushmen
he’s up there with the best.
You’ll never hear him boast
or talk about himself
he’d just as soon have a yarn
and leave that stuff to someone else.
 
For he’s been and done those things
back in those other days
when a man was judged on what he’d done
not on what he had to say.
 
He’s so humble and well mannered
 shows respect to all he meets
a real man from a real land
 though now unsteady on his feet.
 
The bush has been his playground
his family and his home
when it comes to living legends
he’s a class act all his own.
 
Each year he travels back
to that sleepy border town
to meet old drovers gathered there
to pass some yarns around.
 
He joins in conversations
about cattle, mounts and miles
the memory of a life well lived
gives him reason now to smile.
 
With water in the government tank
and grass out on the plain
and big mobs on the stock route
that we’ll never see again.
 
But always in my memory
these old men will walk tall
and up there with the best of them
is the legend Luke McCall.
 

 

Vale Luke.

Read Patricia’s post in Woman In…Outback Australia: Camooweal, Queensland about the annual Drover’s Camp Festival that she and Luke would drive 7,000 kilometres to attend each year on the border between Queensland and the Northern Territory. This camp takes place in August and is open for all to attend.

Patricia McPherson is a retired nurse from Victoria. She worked as a nurse for years with the Australian Inland Mission at Fitzroy Crossing in the Western Australian Kimberley region in the 1960s and  regularly travels to the outback which she considers her ‘heart country’.  

 

 

 

 

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Outback Australia in the Wet Season

My daughter Genevieve and I drove 4000 kilometres from Port Augusta in South Australia, to Darwin in the Northern Territory, in two weeks. The direct route is just over 2,700 kilometres. But we wanted to see the outback.

Genevieve shares my love of the Australian outback, the remote deserts, the unique heat, the waterways and the people. After completing a year of work in the Pilbara region of Western Australia she was to begin a new position in Darwin. This meant she needed to bring her car from Western Australia to Darwin. She had a month before beginning her new position, so I volunteered to accompany her on the drive between Port Augusta and Darwin. With two weeks to cover the distance, we decided to meander our way north detouring to our hearts’ content.

We drove for 3-4 hours each day with lunch and morning tea stops.

In February the temperature sits on 40º all day, and only after sunset, begins a slow, nonchalant descent to 27º, reached around three or four in the morning. After dawn the sun marches back into the day with gusto and the temperature peaks by 9am remaining there for the rest of the day. Due to the heat, our pattern was to drive during the middle of the day taking advantage of the car’s  air-conditioning, and arrive at camp in the late afternoon or early evening, allowing time to set up the tent and cook. We planned activities such as walking for the early morning, and were back on the road mid to late morning.

The Oodnadatta Track

Until now the Oodnadatta Track existed, for me, only through tales my father told me and stories in the books of my adolescence. It was a place remote and fearful, a desert highway for camels, telegraph linesmen and the legendary white Australians of cattle stations and homesteads; a place where the heat and dryness could kill.

Our journey along the Track started at William Creek. It wasn’t our intention to drive along the Oodnadatta, at least not as far as we did. It was only as my daughter and I drove further into remote South Australia that we grew more confident, and that the Track began to lose the unpredictable power my imagination had given it.

The Oodnadatta Track - photo Jacinta Agostinelli

The Oodnadatta Track – photo Jacinta Agostinelli

William Creek

We arrived at William Creek hot and dusty from Coober Pedy, passing only one other car in the three-hour drive. The desert we had driven through was either gibber plain or red sand, usually with low vegetation.

At William Creek there is a hotel with accommodation, an airstrip that crosses the track and a campground. No need to book in February but I would recommend booking in the more popular mid-year months. The town, once a stopover for the Ghan, now claims fame as having Australia’s most remote pub, and as a base for exploring Lake Eyre by plane, which we did.

The pub is a museum in itself. Made of timber with timber furniture, it holds a dusty collection of old photos, superseded farm tools and items from around the area. And it serves great dinners. We enjoyed a Thai curry and a ‘parma’, so large it curled over the edges of the plate. A sturdy wood heater in the centre of the room suggested night temperatures must, at some time, get very low.

    Lake Eyre

    Lake Eyre has water in it once every ten years, and I had read that this was one of those years. Rains up north in January meant there was water in February. And indeed, we are lucky.

    Before leaving Melbourne I booked a one-hour sunrise flight through Wrights Air. There are a number of flight itineraries available and a number of companies running them from various points of departure, so check which flight suits you best.

    The outback is beautiful from the air. As the squirming ball of sun climbs to the edge of the world before melting across the land, the rocky ridges and daubs of vegetation below change colour. The sky and the ground are every shade of pink, purple and red.

    Nothing can prepare you for the sight of Lake Eyre from above: not the tricky little lake we flew over earlier, nor the images in geography books. It is a huge expanse of water, as far as you can see. It is an eerie, rippled, wind-streaked blue as still as if painted onto the salt. We followed sweeping, salt-lined arcs in search of birds.

      The Painted Desert

      At Oodnadatta town we decided on a detour through the Painted Desert. We had needed to calculate whether this the detour, still considered a section of the Oodnadatta Track, was a safe option given the distance, the time, our diesel and water supplies.

      This section of the Track would have to be one of Australia’s most remote, dusty roads and this suited us. More like the driveway to a homestead than a road, it was in good condition but required attention to skirt a few deep wheel ruts and pot-holes. The Track wound around small hills and ridges and at about half way, passed through the Painted Desert.

      From the top of a viewing hill we looked over some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen: dry, sculptural and full of colour, yet still and silent. It was a huge watercolour landscape.

      At various junctions along the road a sign and a faded track indicated a station or homestead out there somewhere. It is easy to lose your sense of direction in the desert especially when tracks and signs have deteriorated and look the same. This happened to us when, thinking we might camp the night, we turned off towards a homestead. When attempting to join the main road again we were confused by the choice of three roads. We drove for an hour or so not knowing if we were heading in the right direction, and while this caused some anxiety, it was a part of the experience.

        The Mereenie Loop (Red Centre Way), West MacDonnell Ranges Northern Territory

        The Mereenie Loop is an unsealed four-wheel drive road between Uluru and Alice Springs. The section of the loop between Kings Canyon and Alice Springs is referred to as Namatjira Drive. It follows the West MacDonnell Ranges.

        The West MacDonnell Ranges are striking in the brooding light of the wet season. The skies sink towards earth with the weight of rain. Thunder tumbles around the rim of the ranges and sheet and fork lightening flash. But the sky holds onto most of the rain and the labouring storm takes a rest for a few hours, when the theatre begins again. Driving this loop is an experience I will not forget.

        There are a number of places to stop along the way to do a short walk, or to detour to a lookout. Do this, particularly after rain as the bush smells like I imagine heaven to smell. Bird life is also abundant after rain. In small, fluid and shifting shapes, flocks of coloured finches move from tree to tree. Willy Wagtails hop along disused stockyard and fencing posts, and according to aboriginal stories, alert the walker to the presence of another. We stopped at Gosse Bluff, (Tnorala conservation reserve), Redbank Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, the Ochre Pits, Serpentine Gorge and Ellery Creek Bighole, all easy walks.

        We bush camped and there are plenty of spots to do this. If you are after something more comfortable there is a welcoming and rustic hotel with rooms at Glen Helen Homestead Lodge. In February, the mosquitoes are very active after dusk and before sunrise. After sunrise the flies take over! We carried plenty of mosquito repellent and set up camp early enough to have finished dinner before sunset. For the flies we had hats with fly nets.

          Nyinkka Nyunyu, Tennant Creek

          Nyinkka Nyunyu is a very impressive art gallery, museum and cafe run fully by the aboriginal people from Tennant Creek. What we expected to be an hour’s stop became a three-hour exploration. The centre and tour we had were all engrossing and we had no sense of time passing. Because we were the only visitors it being out of season, the curator gave us a personalised, ‘story’ style tour.

          The curator was an aboriginal man who had experienced some of the history and happenings that were depicted in the exhibitions and storyboards. All aspects of aboriginal life and culture, as well as contact and relationships with the Europeans, were covered in the displays. The gallery walls were decorated with the work of many local artists, whom we met working in the studios incorporated into the building. There was so much art available for purchase that it was difficult to decide which to buy, and being a gardener with interest in bush foods and plants, I finally decided on a canvas called Bush tomatoes.

          In the absence of a personalised tour, visitors carry a player with numbered recordings that match numbered stations around the centre. We followed this in the garden, which has been planted with educational purposes in mind. It is well laid out and garden enthusiasts will love it. There is a kitchen garden with bush tucker to supply the café kitchen. The café was due to open a couple of weeks after our visit, however we got to meet the trainer from Charles Darwin University who had just arrived to train some young people to work in the kitchen. Next visit I will stop for lunch!

          When to go

          The ideal time to travel to the outback is in February. While it is very warm and possibly very wet in February, the roads and camping grounds are empty. Be aware however that if you do choose to travel at this time you will need to check in regularly with a government road report site such as the Northern Territory road report website (www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/roadreport), or a tourist information centre. We also asked the locals for their opinions on roads. Roads can become impassable in the wet season, or may be damaged after heavy rain. For travelling off the major highways a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential.

          *****

          Jacinta Agostinelli lives in Melbourne. She spends her time writing, caring for her grandchildren, developing and maintaining gardens using sustainable and organic methods, and is a director on the management committee of SPAN House in Thornbury, Melbourne. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling near and far. 

           

          Photographs by Jacinta Agostinelli

           

           

           

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          澳大利亚维多利亚州莫宁顿半岛地标性彩色盒子房

          Did you know that women are the reason we have those iconic, brilliantly coloured bathing boxes on the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria?

          At the end of the 19th Century and through the early 20th, the city fathers tried desperately to stave off the shocking prospect of uncovered female flesh. They feared that if women were allowed to undress and change into their neck-to-knee bathing suits on the beaches, public immorality would inevitably follow.

          The city fathers had already tried to divide some beaches into separate bathing areas for men and women following “indecent bathing during a heat wave”.

          Their battle for respectability and decorum succeeded to the extent that many boxes were in fact built.  Now only 1300 survive and no new boxes or boatsheds are allowed, with the exception of places such as Brighton Beach. For that reason their value has skyrocketed, in some instances fetching more than A$350,000. Tightly held, the families that own them often pass them down through the generations.

          Public morality no longer being of concern, they are now mostly used to have a good time at the beach. In summer, you will see owners sitting in the shade of the open box, deckchairs and tables arranged comfortably with food and cold drinks at hand, contemplating the sea only metres from their door. Or you will see them dragging their kayaks from the boxes, a few steps across the sand, and into the sparkling sea for a row along the bay. The owners are spared having to pack their equipment on cars and trailers to return home at the end of the day. But they do have to maintain the boxes in good order and pay fees for the privilege of owning a beach box.

          We can enjoy them too. They add a riot of colour and cheerfulness to the beach in any season. So take a stroll along any one of the 26 beautiful beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, from Mount Eliza to Portsea, where you can feast your eyes on these iconic structures.

          The guide below shows the places you can find these beach boxes and the number at each location.

          Take a look at the slideshow to see some of these beach boxes.

          Photographs and editing by Augustine Zycher

          HOW TO GET THERE

          The Mornington Peninsula is approximately an hour from Melbourne’s CBD and is easily accessible via the Peninsula Link freeway.

           

          mornington-pen-map

          View Larger Map


           

           

           

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          Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

           

          Gion District – Geiko (Geisha) and Maiko (Geisha-in-training) in Kyoto

          Kyoto is  the centre of Japan’s Geisha culture. There are almost 200 Geiko, popularly known as a Geisha, in Kyoto, making it the largest concentration in Japan. Geisha in Japan are respected artists.

          They reside mainly in the charming Gion quarter, with its leafy narrow lanes lined with traditional wooden houses. It is located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west.

          It is here that girls and young women receive the rigorous training to a become a Geiko, and here that they entertain in Ochaya, the traditional tea houses.

          You may be fortunate, as we were, to see an exquisitely costumed Geiko walking along the narrow streets in the Gion district. If you do see a Geiko, which is not a common sight, it is considered very impolite to approach or try to speak with her.

          However, we were able to spend more time with a Maiko – a young woman serving an apprenticeship in order to become a Geiko.

          Meeting a Maiko

          Meeting a Maiko in Gion was one of the most memorable events of our time in Japan. We met her in the wooden Ochaya. It was a delight to see her serve tea and then to watch her dance. She then answered our many questions about Maiko and Geiko through an interpreter.

          What is a Geiko/Geisha?

          It is necessary to explain that contrary to popular belief, Maiko and Geiko are not sex workers. They are respected artists who undergo a course of 5 years apprenticeship in singing, dancing, playing instruments, calligraphy and traditional Japanese skills such as tea ceremonies before they are allowed to qualify. They are highly accomplished performers and social hostesses who are invaluable to the smooth and successful running of business or social gatherings.

          Nor can you simply book a Geiko to hostess or entertain at a function. They entertain only for guests known to their mother house who have been clients of at least three generations standing. New clients may be accepted only on recommendations from existing clients.

          The Discipline

          It is hard to find a Western equivalent for this exclusive profession. It combines the rigorous training and discipline of an elite ballet school and music academy, with the self-renunciation of a nunnery.

          The community of Geiko and Maiko residing in Gion is governed by the strictest and perhaps the most conservative rules of all. This unique art form developed over the generations is fading as fewer girls are prepared to undertake the arduous training and lifestyle.

          Few are accepted for training as a Maiko, and even fewer qualify as a Geiko after 5 years.

          A Maiko lives under the auspices of a Kami-san (Mother of the House) who is responsible for her training and accommodation. The House Mother also takes on a parenting role. The 18 year-old young woman we met chose to become a Maiko when she was 15. This meant that she not only left school at that age, but she also had to leave her family to come to Kyoto. She is only permitted to see her family a few times a year.

          Maiko in teahouse Kyoto Japan – womangoingplaces.com.au

          Each day, from morning until late afternoon, she receives instruction from teachers in singing, playing instruments, dancing and traditional Japanese arts including learning how to apply the striking makeup. Then from early evening until late at night she hosts guests in the traditional teahouses or at private functions. She dances and sings, accompanying herself with a range of Japanese musical instruments, pours tea and engages them in conversation.

          She wears gorgeous kimonos and her hair is impeccably swept up in the distinctive, glossy traditional style. Since it is so difficult and time-consuming to arrange this style, her hair is washed, styled and set once a week. To maintain it in place, she, like all the other Maiko and Geiko, have to sleep with their necks on hard wooden little platforms.

          During the 5-year training period she receives no pay for her work and studies. All her expenses are paid for by the Kami-san. If she wants to leave, she has to pay back all the expenses to the Kami-san.

          If she wants to marry, she is not allowed to remain in the profession.

          Remarkably, a Geiko’s skills and accomplishments as an artist, performer, conversationalist and hostess can survive the loss of her looks and her youth. There are even some Geiko in their 80’s still hosting guests.

          Public Geiko performances

          It has recently become possible to meet a Maiko as we did, through a tour company, through the internet or a local travel guide could arrange it.

          Kyoto’s Gion Kobu Geisha community puts on annual public shows which provide a rare opportunity for the public to see the geisha perform their arts. The most famous of these performances is the Miyako Odori  in which Geiko give several hour-long highly stylised dance performances each day for about 3 weeks in April.  See the official site Miyako Odori  to book tickets.

           

          ******

          Feature image of Geiko in Kyoto Japan by June Simpson

          Related posts:

          Our Top Places in Japan

          Ryokans in Japan

          Japan’s Brilliant Bullet Train

          Onsen in Japan

          Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

          Autumn in Japan

          Notes on Japan

          The Pleasures of a Japanese Toilet

          Hokkaido – the Northern Island of Japan

           

           

           

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          Our Top Places in Japan

          WomanGoingPlaces has chosen some of the places we saw as first-time visitors to Japan that became our Top Places in Japan.

          Tokyo the capital, of course has many attractions and must be visited, but we would like to present some places outside Tokyo, some lesser known, that made a special impression.

          These are to be found on 4 different islands of Japan – Honshu, Miyajima, Hokkaido and Shikoku. The choices are arranged according to islands and not in order of favourites.

          We would also like to recommend the following local guides whom we found to be excellent – knowledgable, pleasant and reliable:

          Ms. Atsuko Inuzuka   Areas guided include Tokyo area, Yokohama, Hakone, Nikko, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Himeji, and Kobe.

          Ms.Chiwako Mukai   Areas guided principally Hokkaido, but also from Tokyo to Kyoto including Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima and Miyajima.

          Mr Masaaki Hirayama  Area guided – Hiroshima

          HONSHU

          KYOTO

          Don’t rush through Kyoto. You need to spend time in this city that has more World Heritage Sites than Rome. Plan time to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the temples and shrines. Allow time to wander through its distinctive districts, extensive gardens and wide boulevards. Eat Shabu Shabu sitting on tatami mats and other traditional food in its excellent restaurants.

          Kyoto’s historical importance as Japan’s capital and the Emperor’s residence from 794 to 1868 spared it from air raids in WW2 and the mass, unattractive post-war development of many Japanese cities.

          Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)

          Golden Pavilion Kyoto

          The glittering gold Kinkaku-ji Temple and its reflection in the pond is stunning and yet serene. The two top floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf.  Built initially by a shogun as his personal villa, it became a temple in 1408. The original building has been burnt down several times, most recently by a fanatic monk in 1950, but each time, like a gold-plated phoenix, it has arisen splendid from the ashes.

          You cannot go inside, but must admire it from the outside only. On rare occasions, heads of state and royalty are permitted to enter and see the beautiful interior. Perhaps the luckiest are the cleaning ladies who get regular access to every part.

           

           Fushimi Inari Shrine

           

          This is the head Shinto shrine of 30,000 shrines in Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Since 711 A.D., people wishing to give thanks have each donated a torii gate and now there are over 10,000 of these dazzlingly beautiful gates. You walk inside vermillion avenues formed by these torii, each with different inscriptions in bold black.

          It is the most popular site in Kyoto and extremely crowded, so try to get there as early as possible in the morning.

           

          HIMEJI CASTLE, HIMEJI

          HIMEJI CASTLE

          UNESCO describes Himeji Castle as “ a masterpiece of construction in wood”.  Sitting on top of a hill, it is a luminous white, particularly brilliant after its recent restoration, and appears to float on its fortified foundations. It is considered Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well-preserved complex of 83 buildings. Begun as a fort in the 14th Century, it was remodelled and expanded in the 16th Century. Despite war, earthquakes and fires, it remained intact, making it one of Japan’s twelve remaining ‘original castles’. It is also one of only four castles in Japan that has been designated as a National Treasure and has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

          A superb example of typical Japanese castle architecture, the intricate detail of every feature from the immense trees used as pillars to the feudal family crests in the tiling reflects extraordinary craftsmanship and ingenuity. Himeji Castle combines the strength of an immense fortification with the lightness and beauty of traditional Japanese aesthetic.

           

          KOYASAN, Mount Koya

            If you would like to stay in a Buddhist monastery and practise meditation, Koyasan, is a beautiful, if  remote place to do it – in thickly forested mountains at an elevation of 900 metres. Considered one of Japan’s most sacred sites, it is the world headquarters of the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism and was established in the year 816 by Kobo Daishi. He is considered by many to be the most influential religious person in Japanese history and his mausoleum is there in the sprawling Okunoin cemetery.

            Koyasan has 117 temples. The Garan Temple complex in particular has very intricately designed, remarkable temples set in extensive gardens. Koyasan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have made the lengthy journey here. You see them still, wearing white cotton jackets, with conical hats on their heads and wooden staffs in their hands. Like every place in Japan that attracts many visitors, there are shops, restaurants and even cafes to cater to guests. More than 50 of the temples and monasteries also offer lodgings, known as shukubo. See our post about Ryokans in Japan for more about shukubo and how to contact them.

            HIROSHIMA

               

              The destructive power of the the first atomic bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. It was decided not to rebuild the blast area, but to turn it into Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. You may be disinclined to visit a place of such harrowing memories but it is very worthwhile to do so. Hiroshima itself has been rebuilt into a thriving attractive city.  The memorials to the terrible events of the war are thoughtfully and sparely presented. Through personal belongings, clothes and stories they evoke the impact and consequences of that fatal day.

              The Museum on the site focuses on August 6 – the day the bomb was dropped and its outcome in human suffering. Scorched items of clothing, personal effects and buildings that survived the 3000 degree heat generated by the bomb make for a devastating display.

              The Children’s Peace Monument was built to commemorate the death of children in the atomic blast, and in particular the death of 12 year-old Sadako Sasaki. She was 2 years-old when exposed to the radiation of the blast, but grew up healthy until 10 years later when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. There is a Japanese legend that if you fold 1000 paper cranes, your wish will come true. So Sadako began to fold paper cranes hoping to become well. Some of these cranes can be seen in the Museum. The Children’s Peace Monument  has a bell you can ring in commemoration and it is ornamented with colourful paper cranes sent from all over the world.

              The A-Bomb Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, is what remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. When the bomb exploded, it was one of the few buildings to remain standing, and remains so today designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

              Between the Museum and the A-Bomb Dome is the Cenotaph. This is an arched tomb for those who died as a result of the bomb, either because of the initial blast or exposure to radiation. Below the arch is a stone chest holding a register of these names, of which there are over 220,000. The grandfather of our guide when we visited Hiroshima, was one of them.

              NIKKO

               

                The lavish beauty of the buildings, temples, shrines, gates and bridges in Nikko is extraordinary. This area enshrines the power and wealth of the first Shogun of the Edo Shogunate – Tokugawa Ieyasu. As such, it is a UNESCO World Heritage centre. Pathways through giant trees lead to very long and steep flights of steps into most buildings. There is a feeling of having to ascend into the presence of the all-powerful Shogun. Nikko is 2 hours from Tokyo by train, so a day-trip is possible but would greatly limit what you could see. The area is also a mountain resort.

                MIYAJIMA ISLAND


                  Miyajima Island is considered one of the top three scenic sights in Japan. This island sits in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima, which in Japanese means Shrine Island. There are shrines, temples and historical monuments such as the famous vermillion torii gate that appears to float in the water. Most visitors make a day trip by ferry from Hiroshima. Don’t. It’s worth a longer visit because even if your interest in visiting shrines has waned, it is one of the prettiest and most peaceful places in Japan. Miyajima has retained its traditional character and avoided the high-rise development of most Japanese cities.

                  Walking through its charming streets you are often accompanied by wild deer, who either ignore you or try to nibble any paper you have in your pockets. There is a challenging but beautiful walk through primeval forest up (and/or down) Mt. Misen. Spectacular panoramic views over the sea await you. You can take the cable car up as well. The specialties of Miyajima are the oysters and the freshly baked, custard-filled sponge cookies. Excellent accommodation is available at all levels of comfort. See our Ryokans in Japan post for more about the Miyarikyu Ryokan.

                   

                  HOKKAIDO

                  NOBORIBESTSU

                    Noboribetsu is famous for its hot springs and volcanoes. A small town in the south of Hokkaido, it is easily reached by train from Sapporo. Set in volcanic mountains, it attracts those who seek the healing and relaxing waters of some of the best onsen in Japan. Noboribetsu Onsen is one of the most popular and famous hot spring resorts. See our Hokkaido post for more about Noboribetsu.

                    The stark yellow, pink and green-clad landscape is beautiful. Taking a walk along the many pathways through the Shikotsu-Tōya National Park, including the one to Jigoku-Dani (Hell Valley) a huge geothermal crater, is exhilarating. There are cauldrons of bubbling, sulphurous liquid. Geysers periodically erupt in a shower of boiling water.

                    HAKODATE

                    Goryokaku Fort Hakodate

                    Its chief attraction is the five-pointed star shaped Goryokaku Fort modelled on 16th Century European citadel towns and completed in 1864. Its thick stone walls are surrounded by a moat and the 1,600 cherry trees planted in its grounds make it an extraordinary sight in spring. It’s an impressive sight in any season and can be best appreciated from the observatory in the Goryokaku Tower nearby.

                    The new Goryokaku Tower was built in 2006 as an observatory in order to give visitors excellent perspectives onto the Fort from a height of almost 100 metres.

                    Hakodate is famed for excellent seafood. This bounty can be seen in over 300 stalls in the morning market (Asaichi).

                    See our Hokkaido post for more about Hakodate.

                    SAPPORO

                    Sapporo Beer Museum

                    Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, is probably best known around the world as the original home of its eponymous brand of beer. It is a thriving pleasant city of almost 2 million people set on a grid pattern that is easy to navigate. Below the city centre, there is a network of underground shopping malls, plazas and public transport that make it possible to live and go about business in the city without suffering the extremely cold winter.

                    Winter is still an important season in Sapporo because of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival held in February and its astonishing mammoth ice sculptures.  Skiing is also an attraction because of the availability of ski jumps in the city and its proximity to the Niseko ski resort. For more about Sapporo see our Hokkaido post.

                    SHIKOKU

                    RITSURIN GARDEN, TAKAMATSU

                       

                      The city of Takamatsu is located on the northern shore of Shikoku, the smallest, least populated and least visited of the four major islands of Japan. Ritsurin Garden is thought by many to be one of best gardens in Japan. It was designed by generations of the local feudal lord and took over 100 years to be completed in 1745. The more than 1,400 twisted and contorted pines set this garden apart from other gardens. Every single day, gardeners hand-prune each of the pines in turn until they complete the 1,400 trees and then start again, removing withered needles and shaping the growth according to a well-defined aesthetic.

                      The teahouse in the gardens is exquisite with magnificent views over the lake and mountain. Dating back over three centuries, Ritsurin Garden earned the highest rating of 3 stars from the Michelin Green Guide Japan.

                      MATSUYAMA

                      Matsuyama Castle

                      Matsuyama Castle on the island of Shikoku is another of Japan’s twelve ‘original castles’ which have survived the post-feudal era since 1868 intact. It is located on Mt. Katsu, a steep hill in the city centre providing visitors to the castle with a bird’s eye view of Matsuyama and the Seto Inland Sea. The castle was constructed between 1602 and 1628. The current three storied castle tower was re-constructed in 1820 after the original one was destroyed by lightening.

                      Related posts:

                      Onsen in Japan

                      Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

                      Autumn in Japan

                      Notes on Japan

                      Ryokans in Japan

                      Hokkaido – the Northern Island of Japan

                      Japan’s Brilliant Bullet Train

                      The Pleasures of a Japanese Toilet

                       

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                      乌鲁鲁(艾尔斯岩石)— 澳大利亚的红色中部

                       

                      At the end of May 2017, Uluru stood as a silent sentinel over an historic summit of the First Nations of Australia. They had come from across the continent and the Torres Strait Islands, 250 community leaders. At the end of 3 days of deliberation, they issued a powerful and beautifully crafted document, entitled Statement From The Heart. It rejected symbolic recognition. Speaking from the “ torment of powerlessness” it demanded a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice in government decision-making. It also called for a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreements with government and lead the way to a treaty.

                      And so another dimension was added to the political, cultural and spiritual significance of Uluru.

                      Uluru is one of the few places in the world to have been awarded dual World Heritage recognition  – for both its outstanding natural values and outstanding cultural values.

                      On our trip to the Red Centre of Australia, we found extraordinary beauty, cultural richness, and new perspectives on this iconic Australian landmark.

                      We began with the perspective on Uluru from the distance,  at both sunrise and sunset. In the darkness of early morning, we watched as a dark shape outlined by the first rays of the sun began to loom over the flat plain. By day, we saw a monolith, 9.4k in circumference, rising up 348 metres from the semi-arid desert that surrounds it. Both the rock and the sand are stained a deep red by the iron oxide in the earth. Late afternoon, we watched from afar as the sunset coated Uluru pink, then rich purple colours.

                      But nothing really prepared us for the shock of seeing Uluru up close.

                      It is not a uniform lump of rock. As you walk into it, you discover oases with vegetation, waterholes, waterfalls, caves with rock art, gullies and rocks sculptured into remarkable shapes. Changes of light, shadow and perspective bring with them continuous shifts in appearance, an impression of movement at odds with the idea of a stolid monolith.

                      In the tranquility of the Kantju Gorge, we were enclosed by towering rocks that spectacularly changed from yellow to gold, orange to ochre, pink to purple, and brown to grey.

                      This breathtaking physical perspective is only a part of Uluru. We began to see that there is another more compelling perspective. We began to learn about the Anangu, the Aboriginal people who are the traditional custodians of Uluru and the country around it, and we pay our respects to them.  Their traditional languages are Pitjantjatjara and Yankunitjatjara. Carbon dating on caves, shows that indigenous people have lived in this area for at least 22,000 years, and possibly 30,000. Elsewhere in Australia, there is evidence of Aboriginal habitation dating back to around 60,000 years, making them one of the oldest human societies on earth.

                      Traditional custodianship is quite different from our concept of land ownership. It is not personal possession, but public, common responsibility to care for the land, its flora and fauna, and to carry on that care from generation to generation.

                      For thousands of years, the indigenous people have passed down the knowledge of how to survive on the land and how to survive as a community. But they have not written it down. There are no written texts. There is no sacred literature. They have no Bible, Koran, Sutras, Vedas or Chinese Classics that have guided the survival of other peoples.

                      It is an oral tradition that has sustained the Aboriginal people with a strong culture in Australia for 60,000 years, in some of the harshest terrain on earth.

                      The landscape is their sacred text.  The land is endowed with sanctity. Aboriginal spiritual heritage, history, laws, culture, knowledge, geography are all embodied in the land.  They read their land – its shape, its contours, its plants, animals and birds. And they express this connection to the land through songs, stories, ceremonies and art.

                      The foundation of the culture is called Tjukurpa – Creation – when the ancestors, changing shapes between humans, animals, birds and spirits, roamed the formless land. Their travels, battles and experiences gave shape to the land and created its distinctive topography and all life. As well as  creation stories, Tjukurpa is a body of knowledge governing human behaviour and care of country.

                      According to Tjukurpa, Uluru was formed by Two Boys. They were playing at the Kantju waterhole, piling up mud until it was the size of Uluru. The long channels and gullies on the southern side of Uluru were formed when the Two Boys slid down from the top on their bellies, dragging their fingers through the mud.

                      The python woman, Kuniya and the poisonous snake man, Liru, are other ancestors who shaped Uluru and left visible marks. Signs in the rock chronicle their struggle and the places where the grieving Kuniya struck Liru dead in vengeance for spearing her nephew.

                      When visiting Uluru, you are not just walking amongst boulders and rocks. You are following the path of the creation stories that the Anangu continue to celebrate. The spirits of the ancestors are believed to still dwell here so it is considered sacred, and parts of Uluru are closed to the public.

                      The initiation of the young into the complexities of Tjukurpa continues. And in caves in Uluru, grandfathers pass down knowledge to young boys, drawing on the cave walls as a teacher in any other classroom would illustrate on a blackboard. In separate caves, women elders pass on women’s business to young girls.

                      It is an ancient culture that is still alive and still defines the indigenous people.

                      Another new perspective we had on Uluru was looking up to the desert sky – the stark blue of the sky by day and the sheer brilliance of the night sky. Since tourist and local accommodation is concentrated in a particular area, the township of Yulara, electric lighting does not blot out the stars as it does in cities.  You can look up and clearly see endless swathes of stars shining directly above you.

                      Uluru is within the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park which covers 327,414 acres of Australia’s desert outback. In 1985 title deeds to the land were handed back to the Anangu, and it is managed jointly by the traditional owners and Parks Australia.

                      The Cultural Centre in the National Park is very beautiful. Built from mud bricks, it represents the two ancestral snakes, Kuniya and Liru. Inside, there are outstanding exhibits about Anangu culture, and you can purchase original indigenous artworks. The bookshop also provides information on a variety of walks around Uluru. Different tour companies also offer tours.

                      Since Uluru is a sacred site, climbing the rock is disrespectful. It is also dangerous, so visitors are requested not to do so.

                      The best times to go are during the Australian winter and spring, when the nights may be freezing, but the days are mild. In summer, temperatures can be extremely hot with outdoor activity limited to the morning hours.

                      The hotels all belong to one group so there is not much competition, but there is a range of accommodation from camping to 5-star tents and hotels.

                      Our photos were taken only where permissible. To see each photo separately go to our Gallery page.

                      Photography – Rosalie Zycher & Augustine Zycher

                      Video editor – Augustine Zycher

                      Music – Albare  CD  ‘The Road Ahead’  title track www.albare.info

                       

                       

                       

                       

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                      Ningaloo Reef

                      澳大利亚尼加卢礁


                      在澳大利亚的海域里我们可以寻找到这些壮丽的珊瑚礁。不过它们不是来自我们所熟知的澳大利亚东海岸的大堡礁,而是来自西海岸的尼加卢礁。着实奇怪的是,虽然这片礁脉在去年被评为世界遗产,但是却鲜为人知。

                      尼加卢是世界公认的最壮观的珊瑚礁群之一同时也是最后一片依旧保持原生态的珊瑚礁群。在尼加卢栖息着220种珊瑚以及500种热带鱼类。我对于这样一片拥有富饶的独特海洋生物并鲜为人知的地带充满好奇。

                      带着这份好奇,我潜入海底与它的鲨鱼,大海龟,黄貂鱼,儒艮以及无数令人惊艳色彩斑斓的鱼群一起畅游。

                       

                      事实上,尼加卢是世界上最长的近岸礁之一。因为它怀抱澳大利亚多岩的西北海岸线远郊一角,所以乘船观赏实为上佳之选。

                      我在尼加卢航海(Sail Ningaloo)处为自己订了一个为期5天的52英尺双体船航行。这次旅行我偶遇了一位来自英国的独立航海探险者—凯特。她是唯一的一位同行者,也是一名女性,她航行经历广泛,足迹遍及北极、南极以及加拉巴戈斯群岛。她此行的目的就是在珊瑚礁中潜水。
                      我选择了用通气管潜水。在此之前我从未尝试过通气管潜水,不过这并无大碍。潜水教练指导我穿好潜水服并教会我使用通气管,然后我便滑下轮船跟着他们潜入海底。

                      青绿色的海水通透无比,峡谷中精巧玲珑的珊瑚霎时映入我的眼帘。与此同时,我的周身也游弋着一群形态各异五彩斑斓的鱼群,它们的队形千变万化令人称奇。

                      一直以来,我都迷恋在自然纪录片中看到的那些绿色的大海龟。现在我万分激动因为终于有幸可以在他们中间畅游一番甚至可以和他们中的一些近到咫尺。直到他们发现了我,拍打着鳍肢匆匆游远。这时有两头儒艮慢慢游近,我异常兴奋,因为这些体型奇特的生物真的是难得一见。
                      nigaloo reef sailing

                      不过鲨鱼、黄貂鱼就可怕多了。虽然他们告诉我珊瑚鲨对人不感兴趣,但是当几头珊瑚鲨急速向我游来的时候我还是不禁屏息凝神直到他们游走。而黄貂鱼则是非常难觅的,因为他们会躲藏在海底纯白的沙子中,然后突然跃起,抖落身上的沙子,如离弦之箭般迅速游远。

                      当我们在甲板上闲逛时,我们就会看着鲸鱼游过,看着它们从呼吸孔中喷射出水柱。此时正值白鲸和座头鲸在6000平方米的尼加卢海域进行他们一年一度的迁徙。一天,一头母座头鲸和她的孩子靠近了我们的船。凯特和我立刻停止了讲话生怕把他们吓跑,而事实恰好相反,我们越对着他们说话,他们就越靠近,最后母座头鲸游到她孩子的身下将他驼在背上让他更好地看看我们。真是一群高智商又充满好奇的动物呵。

                       

                      每天我可以用通气管潜水两次,每天我都看到完全不同排布的珊瑚丛,甲壳类动物,哺乳动物和鱼。

                      当我不在海底时,我就躺在甲板上读书,时不时地看看有没有鲸鱼,蝠鲼鳐,海豚或是海龟。

                      躺在我船舱床铺上最美的事便是看着初升的旭日慢慢点亮舷窗外的大海。

                      这是一次适合女性的旅游。即便我做的是以前从未做过的事,但是我感到安全、舒适而且也不感觉别扭或者感觉像是一个女人自己出游。这是一个去亲近和享受这个世界的这份独特美丽的绝好方式。

                       

                      备注:最后一刻订的确认航程有的时候会被取消。

                      尼加卢航海(Sail Ningaloo)最近刚获得了由西澳旅游局颁发的生态旅游银奖和探险旅游铜奖。

                       

                      潜水中看到的珊瑚丛中的儒艮、海龟、黄貂鱼、鲨鱼以及色彩绚丽的鱼类,请在影片中欣赏。

                      感谢尼加卢航海(Sail Ningaloo)和Prue Johnson的海底照相及摄影。Augustine Zycher编辑


                      更多信息:http://www.sailningaloo.com.au
                      查看大地图

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                      亚瑟港, 塔斯马尼亚 – Port Arthur, Tasmania

                       

                      亚瑟港是一个充满矛盾的地方。

                       

                      当你第一眼看见它时,它给你的印象也许是那些伫立在起伏山峦上的英式豪宅和在错落在田园诗画般海港边郁郁葱葱的花园。但事实上,亚瑟港是英格兰最可怕的罪犯流放地之一。这里被它的建造者副总督乔治•亚瑟(George Arthur)刻意营造成为一个恐怖的地方。这里是一个对反动者进行强迫劳役和严厉惩罚的地方,那些违反规定的人在这里要受到不间断的监视。罪犯们奴隶般的劳动不仅仅是要建造亚瑟港的公共设施,更是为这个新殖民地建造一个制造大楼。

                      同时,亚瑟港也是基于闻名遐迩的监狱改造家杰里米•本瑟姆(Jeremy Bentham)的理念而实施创新型刑罚试验的先驱地。这包括通过教导罪犯贸易或者耕种来努力改造他们。

                       

                      亚瑟港本来是用来对付那些最不容易屈服的累犯,那些别的监狱无法制服的犯人。但是只有9岁的小男孩们却也被送来了这里。你也可以参观普尔角(Point Puer),这里是大英帝国建立的第一座青少年监狱。在这座半岛上,年纪小的男孩和成年男性是分开关押的。这些男孩会接受一些教育,学习贸易,但也还是要做体力劳动。

                       

                      建成于1830年,亚瑟港在当时被认为是无法逃离的地方。它坐落于塔斯曼半岛上一处完全与世隔绝的地方,位于霍巴特的主要聚居地的南面,它是由仅仅不到50米宽的带状土地连结到大陆上的,况且这条唯一可能让人逃离的带状土地还被饿坏了的疯狗们所占领。亚瑟港也是完完全全的被海水所包围,只有很少的罪犯懂得如何游泳,并且他们还被告知周围的水域里面有鲨鱼。尽管如此,还是有几个罪犯成功逃脱了。

                       

                      这里曾经是澳大利亚最难进入的地方,现在却成为塔斯马尼亚州最受有课欢迎的地方。

                       

                       

                       

                      亚瑟港还是一座试验新惩罚措施的监狱。除了一般像鞭笞和节食之类的体罚之外,这里还引进了一系列心理上的惩罚方法。

                       

                      当你步入教堂时,你会被那些木质长椅和洁白的墙面的美丽所震撼到。你不会轻易发现,那些长椅之所以被设计成这样是为了让罪犯在祷告的时候看不到其他人,也不会被别人看到。尽管这些监狱的长椅本该是让罪犯们在精神层面上有所提高,可是他们还是被用来让罪犯们受罪了。

                       

                      这里有一个被叫做“沉默疗法”的感官剥夺体制。罪犯的头上会罩上一块头巾,并且他们不能说一句话,这里的地板和墙壁经加工后也隔绝了一切声音。罪犯还会被长期囚禁在完全黑暗的单间里。许多被关在单间里的罪犯后来都因为缺少声音和光线而被逼疯了。这么看来,旁边的屋子就是精神病院还是很方便的。

                      A convict ploughing team breaking up new ground at a farm in Port Arthur. Created circa 1838 by an unknown artist. Reprinted as a postcard circa 1926. State Library of Victoria

                      A convict ploughing team breaking up new ground at a farm in Port Arthur.
                      Created circa 1838 by an unknown artist. Reprinted as a postcard circa 1926.
                      State Library of Victoria

                       

                       

                       

                       

                      亚瑟港现在已经被列在了世界遗产名录上。这里的花园和森林里有超过30栋建筑。

                      花点时间好好的参观一下这里,因为这里有太多可以看的东西了。你需要花时间来感受、欣赏这里的美。去欣赏大自然的美,也去欣赏由罪犯建造的雄伟建筑的美。这里有按原貌忠实还原的建筑,也有一些定期粉刷的建筑,比如像监狱长的住所,医生的住所,监狱以及教堂。穿行于这些重建的建筑你可以身临其境地感受这段历史,因为你不仅可以想象到这些囚犯们的生活,还可以想象到这里军官以及他们妻儿的生活。

                       

                      游览这里有个新颖的方式,那就是当你到达亚瑟港时,你会拿到一张带有真实罪犯姓名的卡片。这样你就能通过这种互动展览的方法来追溯犯人身上发生的故事和体验犯人的命运。这种联系将那些这里居住过、受过苦的以及其他可能被遗忘的人都以独特的方式记录了下来。

                       

                      亚瑟港于1877年关闭了,它所拥有的超过一个世纪的悲惨历史也随之逐渐消失在周围景物的美丽与祥和之中。但是正好20年前,这个田园般地方的平静再一次被暴行和悲剧所打破。

                      亚瑟港变成了一场大屠杀的发生地。包括游客和员工在内的35人被杀,23人受伤。塔斯马尼亚人马丁•布莱恩特(Martin Bryant)被判有罪并被判处35次终生监禁,不得假释。这场屠杀促使澳大利亚政府随后即颁布了更加严格的枪支管理法令。

                       

                       

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                      Hokkaido – the Northern Island of Japan

                       

                      Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands gives you a sense of space, of wilderness and of untamed nature, thanks largely to its many national parks and large stretches of uninhabited spaces.

                      In winter, it becomes a wonderland of ice and snow and people flock to its ski resorts or to see the extraordinarily creative snow and ice sculptures of the Sapporo Snow Festival that takes place in Hokkaido’s capital every February.

                      Autumn arrives earlier in Hokkaido than in the rest of Japan, so you are more likely to see the turning of the leaves here first. But it is also colder than the rest of Japan and can snow in autumn. Don’t be deterred, it’s a wonderful season to visit.

                      While most visitors arrive in Hokkaido by air, there is a land link to its near southern neighbour Honshu – the Seikan Tunnel which was dug under the Tsugaru Strait. A new Shinkansen or bullet train inaugurated in 2016, passes through this tunnel to link Hokkaido with Tokyo and significantly reduces the travel times.

                      Unlike the other densely settled parts of Japan, full control of the island by the Japanese central government was only completed after the Meiji Restoration in the mid-19th Century and in 1869 it was given the new name Hokkaido. This control was extended in order to meet a perceived threat of Russian expansion from mainland Vladivostok.

                      Known for many years by the name Ezo, Hokkaido is home to the indigenous Ainu people and many names on the island have their origins in indigenous languages including that of the capital Sapporo. We visited the Poroto Kotan Ainu village where tourists are given explanations of Ainu culture and can wander through the houses and structures. Less appealing are the few brown bears, significant in Ainu life and ceremonies, that are kept in the village in tiny cages.  A visit to the very informative and well laid out museum that presents the history of the Ainu people is worthwhile.

                      Of all the wonderful sights and attractions of Hokkaido, its volcanoes and natural hot springs, are the most impressive.

                       

                         

                        Noboribetsu

                        Noboribetsu is famous for its hot springs. A small town in the south of Hokkaido, it is easily reached by train from Sapporo. Set in mountains that are volcanoes, it attracts those who seek the healing and relaxing waters of some of the best onsen in Japan.

                        When you arrive in Noboribetsu you see a huge statue of a blue demon bearing a black club, like a vision from hell. And indeed when you begin to walk around you seem to enter the underworld. Active ochre-mantled volcanoes spewing plumes of steam surround you. Nearby in craters there are cauldrons of bubbling, sulphurous liquid. Geysers periodically erupt in a shower of boiling water.

                        The association of this area with hell is understandable but inaccurate. Its stark yellow, pink and green-clad landscape is beautiful. You marvel at the remarkable volatility of the earth beneath your feet. Taking a walk in the light snow of late autumn along the many pathways through the Shikotsu-Tōya National Park, including the one to Jigoku-Dani (Hell Valley) a huge geothermal crater, is exhilarating. There are boardwalks to the geysers and at the Oyunuma Brook, a place where hikers can sit and bathe weary feet in a naturally hot stream.

                        Afterwards, you can relax in the luxurious onsens of the nearby hotels. Noboribetsu offers a wide variety of natural hot spring waters in which to bathe. The different minerals in the various onsen are said to relieve and cure health problems. The Dai-Ichi Takimotokan Hotel is enormous and may get no prizes for beautiful architecture, but it provides spacious and attractive rooms (especially the Japanese-style rooms), excellent and abundant choices of food, and a multitude of health spas – 35 large and small pools with 7 types of hot springs. There is also a 25 metre swimming pool and waterslide. Our favourite was the women’s open air spa – chill air meets hot bath, a match made in heaven.

                        Hakodate

                        The port city of Hakodate, the third largest city in Hokkaido, has attractions that reflect its colourful and turbulent past. It was the first city in Japan whose port was opened to foreign trade as a result of U.S. Commodore Mathew Perry’s expedition in 1854. The Tokugawa Shoguns who ruled Japan, had for two centuries pursued an isolationist policy that prevented foreign countries access to Japan. When Perry sailed into the Japanese harbour with five ships to force the re-opening of Japan, he overturned this policy. Surrender to Perry’s demands dealt a great blow to the authority of an already weakened Shogunate. One consequence was a war in 1869 when Hakodate became the site of the last stand of supporters of the Shogunate against the restoration of the new Meiji imperial authority. The focal point of this stand was the Goryokaku Fort.

                        Goryokaku Fort and Tower

                         

                        Goryokaku Fort Hakodate

                        Don’t miss touring this area. Its chief attraction is the five-pointed star shaped Goryokaku Fort modelled on 16th Century European citadel towns and completed in 1864. Its thick stone walls are surrounded by a moat and the 1,600 cherry trees planted in its grounds make it an extraordinary sight in spring. It’s an impressive sight in any season and can be best appreciated from the observatory in the Goryokaku Tower nearby.

                        The new Goryokaku Tower was built in 2006 as an observatory in order to give visitors excellent perspectives onto the Fort from a height of almost 100 metres. It also has a very well-presented graphic exhibition of the dramatic events that shaped the history of Goryokaku from the arrival of the American fleet until the surrender of rebels to the forces of new Meiji central government in 1869. This narrative has all the excitement and adventure of hopeless causes with its larger-than-life characters and doomed heroes. Indeed a bronze statue commemorates the handsome and dashing young rebel leader who was shot and killed in a final assault by rebel forces.  The Tower also has a cafe and Observatory shop.

                        Well worth a visit is the reconstructed Hakodate Magistrate’s Office (Hakodate Bugyosho) in the Fort’s grounds.  The original office was the Edo Shogunate’s administrative centre for the Ezo (Hokkaido) region and was dismantled after its collapse. In 2010 after a four year effort, it was reconstructed just as it had been using the exact same materials and traditional Japanese techniques that had been employed in the original structure. Craftsmen skilled in traditional Japanese carpentry, plastering and roof tiling were brought in from all around Japan. You cannot help but admire the superb craftsmanship and attention to every tiny detail of this beautiful building. A fascinating video of the rebuilding process is part of the exhibition.

                        Foreign Quarter

                         

                        View From Motomachi, Hakodate

                        Walk up the hillside from the port and you are in the Motomachi neighbourhood. The area provides a wonderful view over the port and bay, and is a snapshot of times past. Impressive Western-style houses set in beautiful gardens, churches – the Russian Orthodox Church and other historical missionary churches, including Anglican and Catholic – as well as public buildings such as the Old British Consulate were built here at the foot of Mount Hakodate by the foreigners from Russia, China, the UK and other Western countries who came to seek their fortune in the newly-opened Japan of the mid-19th Century. At night, the churches and buildings are illuminated. Of particular note is the Old Hakodate Public Hall. It’s worth going for a wander at dusk and then walking to the near-by Mount Hakodate Ropeway station to take the cable car up the mountain to see the spectacular night view of the city and peninsula.

                        Old Hakodate Public Hall

                         

                        Night View from Top of Mt. Hakodate Ropeway

                         

                        Morning Market

                        Hakodate is famed for excellent seafood. This bounty can be seen at the morning market (Asaichi) which is very near the JR Hakodate railway station. Some 300 stalls are spread across four city blocs selling the freshest and most abundant variety of seafood and other produce. Restaurants in the market tempt visitors to taste their specialties. The market is held daily from 5am to 2 pm.

                        Another interesting area where you can wander and dine in the evening is around the red brick warehouses next to the port. They have been re-developed into an attractive area of restaurants and shops.

                        Sapporo

                         

                        Sapporo Beer Museum

                        Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, is a thriving pleasant city of almost 2 million people set on a grid pattern that is easy to navigate. Below the city centre, there is a network of underground shopping malls, plazas and public transport that make it possible to live and go about business in the city without suffering the extremely cold winter. For this reason it has attracted many retirees from other parts of Japan despite the colder climate.

                        Sapporo is probably best known around the world as the original home of its eponymous brand of beer. Indeed, you can order a variety of beer available only in Sapporo at the Sapporo Beer Gardens, which is part of the Sapporo Garden Park where you can also visit the Sapporo Beer Museum.  All these refurbished red brick buildings are part of the former brewery.

                        Sapporo gained worldwide attention for hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, the first in Asia. Winter is still an important season in Sapporo because of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival held in February and its astonishing mammoth ice sculptures.  Skiing is also an attraction because of the availability of ski jumps in the city and its proximity to the Niseko ski resort.

                        There are plans to extend the bullet train service from Tokyo that presently stops at Hakodate to Sapporo in the next few years. At present, most people arrive in Sapporo by air.

                        Related posts:

                        Onsen in Japan

                        Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

                        Autumn in Japan

                        Notes on Japan

                        Ryokans in Japan

                        Japan’s Brilliant Bullet Train

                         

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