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Hidden Wonder

Canada #12 Brandywine Falls

We heard it long before we could see it.

The rushing water of Brandywine Creek, tumbling in a flurry of whitecaps under the little covered bridge, was the first indication of what was ahead.

Lush greenery surrounded us on the forest trail and, even when we lost sight of the water, the sound of its haste was always in the background.

We came to a railway crossing and, for a few seconds, our attention was diverted. These were not the unusual vehicles we’ve seen on train tracks.

A little further along the trail, our steps quickened in anticipation as we caught glimpses of what was to come.

All was revealed when, around the next bend, Brandywine Falls came into view. As the surging water of the creek reached the edge of an ancient lava flow, it plunged 70 metres to the base of the basalt cliffs before continuing on its way into the Cheakamus Valley.

No wonder we could hear the sound of the falls!

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For the Love of Flowers

Canada #4 Butchart Gardens

I wonder if, when Jennie Butchart first began designing her garden in 1906, she imagined how many people would come to visit in the future. Her work was the start of what would become the famous Butchart Gardens, 22 hectares of floral beauty visited by one million people every year.

Jennie’s first project was the Japanese Garden, complete with a red torii gate and traditional stone lanterns. Arched bridges span a series of ornamental lakes, and Japanese maples provide shade for beds of delicate Himalayan blue poppies.

The Sunken Garden was designed to fill the abandoned quarry which had once provided limestone to the family’s cement factory. A switchback path leads down into the garden, continuing on between raised beds of seasonal blooms, flowering trees and neatly manicured lawns.

At the furthest end of the Sunken Garden, the Ross Fountain performs a dazzling display of dancing water, at times reaching a height of 21 metres.

In contrast to the order of the Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden is almost riotous in its abundance. Fragrant blooms in every colour fill archways and spill out onto the paths. Arbors draped with climbing roses and oversized hanging baskets beckon visitors, who stop time and again to take more photos.

The Italian Garden and Star Pond are more formal in style, with trimmed hedges, waterlily ponds and ornamental fountains. Fuschias, clustered like ballerinas waiting in the wings, dangle from more hanging baskets.

Shaded seats with beautiful views are provided here for those enjoying a treat from the Gelataria.

In any season, the gardens are busy with people who’ve come to marvel at the beauty created by Jennie Butchart.

I think she’d be pleased to know how much joy her vision still brings, more than 100 years after she planted her first roses.

 

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A Change of Plans

Canada #3 Victoria

At the start, it wasn’t going to be a long walk! From the waterfront in downtown Victoria to Fisherman’s Wharf along the David Foster Harbour Pathway was just one kilometre.

We could have taken a relaxing carriage ride past the elegant buildings on Belleville Street but we were glad we didn’t.

We would have missed seeing the continual arrival and departure of the Harbour Air seaplanes. We marvelled at the skill of the pilots and the lightness with which these tiny aircraft landed on the water.

We wouldn’t have come across the Friendship Bell, symbol of a 30 year bond between the citizens of Morioka, Japan and Victoria.

We wouldn’t have seen these beautiful waterlilies, serenely floating in a water garden along the front of an apartment building.

When we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf, the cafés, boutiques and tourist shops were all bustling with people enjoying the fine summer weather. We admired the colourful float homes lined up against the jetties and wondered about the lifestyle of the inhabitants. The queues at the cafés were long and the tables were full, so we decided to continue further along the path.

We passed the Canadian Coast Guard and the Victoria Harbour Heliport before arriving at Ogden Point, part of the traditional lands of the Lekwungen peoples. Ogden Point is the busiest cruise ship port in Canada; each year more than 400,000 passengers start their visit to Victoria here.

Ogden Point Breakwater, a 762 metre long concrete wall jutting out into the calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is decorated with Na’Tsa’Maht – The Unity Wall. The mural painted by Salish Nations artists depicts the stories, past and present, of the local First Nations peoples.

After trekking out to the Ogden Point Breakwater Lighthouse and back, it was time for a rest at the Breakwater Café Bistro Bar. We enjoyed steaming hot chocolates served with a view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the water in Washington State.

Continuing along Dallas Road to Holland Point Park, we joined the Waterfront Trail which passes through the park to the Shoreline Trail. Both tracks were lined with delicate pink flowers growing wild on the edge of the cliff. Huge piles of driftwood washed up by the ocean lay in stacks along the shore below.

At Douglas Street we left the Waterfront Trail, stopping first at the Mile Zero Monument which marks the start of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Nearby we paid our respects at a statue of Terry Fox, the inspirational teenager who, after losing his leg to cancer, started a run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He never finished the journey, succumbing to the disease after running 5,373 kilometres in 143 days. Today, his legacy lives on in the Terry Fox Foundation.

Further down Douglas Street we entered Beacon Hill Park, where a giant watering can sprays cooling water from its spout on hot days. The ducks at Goodacre Lake didn’t need a hot day to take to the water – they were all bottoms up in search of tasty morsels.

We walked past a local school with a famous name and an intriguing place in Canadian political history and the Royal BC Museum, on our list for another day.

At last we arrived back where we’d started in downtown Victoria. Our walk may have been much longer than we planned, but we saw a lot more than we expected.

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Feathers and Fur

An Australian Point of View #6 Healesville Sanctuary

Australia is renowned for its unique wildlife and we sometimes joke that international visitors imagine there are kangaroos jumping down our main streets. While estimates put the kangaroo population at more than 50 million, urban dwellers don’t tend to see them unless they leave the towns and cities behind and head into rural areas. Other well-known Australian animals like koalas, echidnas and platypuses are even more difficult to spot in the wild.

A beautiful place to see many of our native animals is Healesville Sanctuary, an hour’s drive from Melbourne in the Yarra Valley. A bushland zoo dedicated to Australian fauna, the sanctuary is home to those native animals with which we are all familiar and some others less ordinary.



Two walk-through aviaries, Land of Parrots and the Wetlands, have purpose-built hides where visitors can quietly observe native birds in their natural environment.


Flightless emus have their own large enclosure.

The zoo has an extensive conservation and breeding program for some of Australia’s most threatened or endangered species.

Native flowering plants bring seasonal colour to the paths leading through each bushland environment.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular exhibit is the Koala Forest, where raised boardwalks and platforms rise up into the canopy of the eucalypts. Here, the sleepy marsupials rest in the forked branches of manna gums, seemingly unaware of their admiring audience.

For a close up view of Australia’s unique wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is the perfect choice – it’s easier than waiting on the street!

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From Trash to Treasure

Kevtoberfest#24 Mitta Mitta

After our scenic drive through the Alpine National Park, we arrived at the tiny township of Mitta Mitta, home to 31 permanent residents. When Glen asked the manager if there was free Wi-Fi for our phones he laughed and said, “You’ll be lucky to get a TV channel let alone any phone reception.” It was going to be a quiet night.

With a couple of free hours before the sun set, we went for a walk beside the Mitta Mitta River. In the shallows, the water bubbled over the rocky riverbed while on the broad bends the surface was calmer, mirroring the evergreen eucalypts and bare-branched poplars on the river bank.


Kookaburras perched high in a gum tree greeted us, their raucous laugh breaking the silence.

Just as we were thinking Mitta Mitta must be the sleepiest town in Australia we came across some evidence which proved us wrong. Spaced along the grassy path were sculptures, all composed of bits and pieces, discarded scrap metal and household items past their use-by date. The plaque accompanying each piece told us these were all previous entrants in the Bushcraft Sculpture competition at the Mighty Mitta Muster.








We discovered we’d come to Mitta Mitta at the wrong time of year. Every March, the muster attracts thousands of visitors to the little town. Typical country events include a rodeo, wood chop, tug of war and whip cracking, along with craft stalls, horse and dog competitions, athletics and a fun run.

Next time we go to Mitta Mitta, we might need to book ahead!

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Taking a Break

Kevtoberfest #18 Narooma to Mallacoota

Long distance driving can be tiring and it’s important to take regular breaks every couple of hours. When the route we’re taking passes through pretty country villages and coastal towns, we don’t need an excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

After leaving Narooma and continuing on our southward journey, our first stop was at the little village of Central Tilba. Located at the base of Mount Dromedary, Central Tilba and its neighbour Tilba Tilba are heritage listed, with beautifully preserved period cottages and shops.

It was early morning and the galleries and cafés were still closed. The only inhabitants we saw were some noisy rainbow lorikeets, breakfasting on the flowers of melaleuca trees.

Luckily, the ABC Cheese Factory was open and we joined some other keen customers, sampling and purchasing a few delicious cheeses. 

It wasn’t far to our next stop – we travelled just 20 kilometres to the coastal town of Bermagui. Situated on the Bermagui River where its wide natural harbour enters the ocean, the town is best known for its deep sea fishing industry.

Leaving the car and caravan at Dickinson Park, we walked past the marina and the broad sandy beach at Horseshoe Bay to Bermagui Point.

From the lookout on the headland we could see the coast from north to south, and inland to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

All this exploration gave us an appetite so, another 72 kilometres south, we stopped beside Merimbula Lake for a picnic lunch.

After so many scenic stops, our last break for the day had no connection to nature or history and was an unexpected surprise. Just south of Pambula on the Princes Highway, I spotted a sign – for a brewery! Of course, we turned off the highway and followed the directions to the Longstocking Nano Brewery, located alongside a café, gallery and garden centre.

The beers brewed onsite have 1920s themed names and are only available on tap, so Glen enjoyed a tasting paddle while I sampled the handcrafted ginger beer.

That was enough to sustain us for the rest of the afternoon and we continued to our final destination, just over the Victorian border at the seaside town of Mallacoota.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 7/Craft shops 3

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Hidden Beneath

Kevtoberfest #13 Jenolan Caves

Surrounded by forest-covered mountains and accessible by a single narrow winding road, the tiny village of Jenolan is one of the most visited places in New South Wales. The heritage listed hotel is picturesque, the pretty gardens are filled with cool climate plants and the river walk is scenic, but they’re not the main attractions.

The road to the village passes through the Grand Arch, a massive open cave at the base of the mountain. With a length of 127 metres, the cave gives an indication of what is to come. It has entrances to more caves and features a stone bathroom reminiscent of Fred Flintstone’s style.

Deep inside the mountains is a glistening wonderland: stalactites and stalagmites, shawls and crystals, massive caves, underground rivers and ancient fossils. The Jenolan Caves are among the oldest in the world, formed more than 340 million years ago from limestone dated to 430 million years. Eight show caves, each with its own unique natural display, are open to visitors on guided tours while more can be seen on self-guided walks.

The most difficult choice will be which of the caves to see. Tours allow for groups of different sizes and have varying levels of difficulty and accessibility so everyone is catered for. The circuit walk through Chifley Cave, with its high chambers and sparkling grottos, has 421 steps over 690 metres. This cave was the first in the world to be lit with electric lights, originally multi-coloured displays designed to decorate the formations. Now, more subdued lighting enhances the natural colours in the limestone, showing up the ripples and waves.

The Orient Cave contains both the smallest crystals and largest formations in the cave system. Covering a distance of 470 metres and 358 steps, the walk through the chambers is illuminated using the latest lighting technology, giving better views of the stalactites and stalagmites while protecting them from unnecessary heat.

There are several walks in the caves area, and one of the easiest is the River Walk. Starting from the Grand Arch, the track passes around the shore of Blue Lake. Formed in a natural swamp when a dam wall was constructed in 1908, the lake is coloured by dissolved limestone particles in the water. The still water reflects mirror-like images of the surrounding she-oaks and ribbon gums.

The dam wall is part of a hydro-electric plant which still produces power for Jenolan. Remnants of the original system are visible further along the track on the Jenolan River, where it cascades over boulders and drops in rushing waterfalls on its way out of the valley.

Crimson rosellas dart through the trees and Eastern water dragons can sometimes be seen basking on the rocks by the river.

On the return journey, Carlotta Arch is silhouetted high on the ridge above the road. The jagged limestone stalactites hanging from the ceiling give one last reminder of the beauty hidden beneath the surface at Jenolan.

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