Tag Archive | travel

Review of Congo Dawn by Katherine Scholes

Congo Dawn is a Big Book, in size as well as scope. It is set in 1964, a time of unrest in the Congo in the aftermath of throwing off Belgian rule, when the country teetered on the brink of civil war, with fears that communism was gaining support against a Western style democracy.

Anna Emerson is a secretary in Melbourne, where she has lived with her mother since her parent’s divorce when she was seven years old. Her world is turned upside down when she receives a plane ticket to the Congo from a stranger, with the message that her barely-remembered father is dying and wishes to see her.

Against her mother’s wishes she decides to go, harbouring the desire that her father must love her if he wishes to see her again. Sadly it turns out Karl Emerson has his own reasons for wanting to see her, and it has nothing to do with love or family ties.

When she discovers he is not her father but her step-father she sets out on search to find her real father, knowing only the town of her birth, Banya, which is in an area near where the Simba rebels are fighting.

Dan Miller, a no-longer-young former safari leader, is approached to sign up as a mercenary fighter, leading a force of men to help keep the communists from gaining control of the country. Although hesitant at first he agrees, and he and his chosen men head into the area of fighting against the Simba rebels.

This story is not a romance, but another look at love, with the main characters on a search through a war-torn land.

Well researched, and inspired by real events, this book is totally absorbing, as Katherine Scholes gives us another glimpse into Africa in all its diversity, in a time of trouble, where there is both heroism and brutality. My only complaint is that the ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. I would like to know what happened to all the characters further on.

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Flying Fish

Although it is a few years since we finished our caravanning adventure through Australia we have many wonderful memories to look back on – places we visited, people we met, things we did. It is such a diverse country that activities can range from skiing in the snowfields of the Southern Alps to snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, or at Ningaloo in West Australia.

But ask any caravanner what they like best about caravanning and the reply you will receive most often is,“The friendliness of the people you meet.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in Tropical Far North Queensland, Australia’s top winter destination. While everyone else shivers down south during our winter, some lucky ones are able to escape winter by heading north, to our land of eternal summer.

Far North Queensland acts like a magnet to southerners in winter. From May onward the caravans roll in. Parks fill up. Towns overflow with tourists.
Many ’vanners spend at least three winter months enjoying sunshine, swimming, and fishing as far north as Cairns. Many come to the same spot each year, and so enduring friendships are formed.

Flying Fish Point is situated seven kilometres east of Innisfail, on the Cassowary Coast.It stands on both the beach front and alongside the mouth of the Johnstone River andis one such place. It holds a special place in our hearts, for we spent much time there.We arrived there during the winter of our first year on the road, and used it as a base for many months to visit other areas.

The caravan park there was green and shady, and the owner guided us to a shady site plenty big enough for our large rig.

The park boasts a swimming pool

and store and backs on to a green Oval

belonging to the neighbouring school.

A great spot to take the dogs for a walk outside off school  hours.

 

Rainforest edges the other side

of the Oval       

and it was not unusual to see

kangaroos sitting

or cropping grass under the

trees, or even bounding across

the Oval.

The then owners, George and Debbie, with their young daughter Tiani, made us feel as if we had come to a second home.

They were friendly and welcoming. They did everything in their power to ensure that everyone enjoyed their stay, be it short or long.

One of them personally guided each new arrival into their site, leading the way in their white golf buggy. They were always ready to stop and have a chat.

“We like to help everyone get to know each other,” Debbie said, “and for everyone to enjoy themselves.”

They always held a barbecue dinner on Saturday nights – with often fifty or more park visitors attending.

It was here on our first Saturday night that we made friends with other like-minded couples, and organized a group to meet regularly each evening before dinner for drinks during a ‘Happy Hour’.

 

Jock and Maggie’s story is different. Living on the Gold Coast, they were on the first leg of a trip around Australia. They arrived in a motor home for one night. They decided to stay a second night. And then another. Then a week. Then a month.

They fell in love with the area. One day Maggie told me, “We’ve decided to buy a house up here.”
“But what about the summer?” I asked, “they say it’s pretty hot and humid.”
“Well, we have our motor home,” Maggie replied, “if it’s too bad we can always go south for a while.”

They found the perfect house and bought it. While awaiting settlement they stayed on in the Caravan Park.

At the next Saturday night barbecue George announced, “For those of you who will still be here on the third of August we are having a wedding here. Jock and Maggie are going to tie the knot.”

And so they did.

Shortly before the big day the following notice appeared. “Jock and Maggie are being married on Saturday night. Your presence is requested but no presents please.”

We all turned up to see them married. What a happy night it was!

Debbie, with a little help, had decorated the long table and hung balloons. A bridal table was set up and decorated.

The buggy was pressed into service as a wedding car, and the happy couple arrived in this with their young attendant, Tiani, and were piped in by bagpipes. After all, Jock is a Scot.

After the ceremony we all sat down to our usual Saturday night repast, accompanied by liquid refreshments provided by the bridegroom. For dessert it was wedding cake all round. Truly a memorable night, and one of many happy memories we have of Flying Fish Point.

 

 

My Big Break

More travelling

As we wended our way further north along the Pacific Highway, towing our caravan and with our two little dogs happily sleeping in the back seat of the Land Cruiser, we stopped in many interesting places along the way. I wrote many anecdotes in my travel diary, and many of them I expanded into a story that was subsequently published in one of the travel magazines.

One such was my account of the first time I saw a platypus in the wild. It took place at the Broken River, in the Eungella National Park, 80 kilometres west of Mackay, in Central Queensland.

This story has always been special to me, not only for the event itself, but because I turned it into a travel story, accompanied by the pics that Peter had taken, and it was published in Caravan World magazine.

It started me on my writing career.

What a red letter day it was when

we picked up a copy of the magazine

in a newsagent and there was the story-

 a full two page spread with my story,

and a wonderful photo Peter had taken

of the Finch Hatton Gorge.

 

If you don’t know much about the Australian platypus, it is a bizarre semi-aquatic mammal that lays eggs and uses echo-location to find its prey, which it digs from the river bed. It is an egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal with water proof fur. And its elusive behaviour means most people never see it outside a zoo or sanctuary.

I hoped to see the shy and mainly nocturnal animal in its natural habitat, swimming in the Broken River.

So here we were before dusk, standing in the viewing area on the bridge over the Broken River. We’d taken up our positions an hour earlier, waiting patiently, and scanning the river for signs of activity. 

“Watch for bubbles on the surface of the water,” the Ranger told us.  “The platypus dives to the bottom for food, and strains it through his bill.  Then he comes to the surface to eat it.  He’s only on top of the water for a few seconds, and then he dives down again searching for more, so you have to watch carefully.    And it won’t happen until the sunlight is off the water.”

Accordingly we scanned the shady areas of water carefully.  We had a few false alarms as we saw tortoises swimming below us, and insects skimming the surface often gave the appearance of bubbles.

Peter trained his binoculars up-river and suddenly there it was, many metres upstream.  Creating wide ripples as it dived, the platypus was clearly visible.

  We watched its progress as it dived and swam towards us. Finally it passed directly below us, under the bridge. It was larger than we expected at about two feet in length, and we saw quite clearly its distinctive bill, the tail, and the dark brown fur.  We hurried to the other side of the bridge, hoping for another glimpse, but it had disappeared.

It was truly a thrill to see this shy, elusive creature in its natural environment.

And an even bigger thrill when the article about it was published.

http://www.kateloveday.com

More Dallying with Dogs

We continued to wend our way slowly north along the Pacific Highway up the coast of New South Wales with our caravan and our two dogs, Mimi and Lucy. We were on our adventure to ‘drop out’ of the real world for a while. For just how long we didn’t know; we planned to wander as our fancy took us – heading always north but making byways from the main tracks whenever something off the main road caught our interest.
Coff’s Harbour is a town located between Sydney and Brisbane. It’s known as the home of bananas, but it’s much more than that for the visitor, including fishing, scuba diving and rain forest walks. The Big Banana is an original Australian ‘Big Thing’ and has been an icon on the Pacific Highway on your way to Coffs Harbour for more than 40 years. A kitschy tourist attraction, it’s one of Australia’s famous landmarks.
It’s also home to Dolphin Marine and the Pet Porpoise Pool, where you can get up close and personal with seals and dolphins. The Butterfly House has an indoor rainforest teeming with butterflies where you can walk right among the butterflies.

We were here in Coff’s for two reasons. One was to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and the surrounding countryside, which included some wonderful rainforests.The other was to attend the wedding of our old friends Lorrie and her partner James.

First thing to do on arriving was to book in at the caravan park, find our site, and set up. We planned to stay a few days so Pete set about erecting the fully enclosed canvas annexe on the side of the van, which was always a safe haven for the dogs when we needed to leave them alone.

The clear blue waters of the beach beckoned us, so as soon as the chores were finished it was time to change into our bathers and head down to the water for a swim. Mimi loved the water but Lucy was a bit more hesitant in those early days, especially if the waves at the edge were a bit stronger than usual. However, with a bit of coaxing she was soon enjoying the water as much as the more adventurous Mimi. And how they loved racing around on the sand after their swim!

The next day, Saturday, was the day of the wedding. As we were traveling with limited space for formal clothes I had one outfit only that was suitable for the event, and as it was to be a church ceremony I had bought a hat especially for the occasion. It was a small confection made almost entirely from tiny white feathers. I’m not much of a hat person, but when I checked myself in the mirror I thought it looked quite chic, and I was glad that I’d bought it.
Like all weddings, the service was lovely, and it was moving to see our old friends taking the plunge into matrimony. Also like many services it was quite long, and we decided to stop by the caravan on the drive between the church and the reception venue in order to check that the dogs were okay.
All was well in the annexe, and I went into the van to fill their water bowl again. While I was in there I caught sight of myself in the mirror and decided I didn’t need to wear the hat any longer, now that the church proceedings were over. I took it off and combed out my hair. Much more comfortable.
After seeing the dogs safely ensconced in the annexe I hopped into the car and we headed to the reception. We spent a happy few hours with the bride and groom and their guests, and when it was all over we headed back to the caravan park.
When we unzipped the door to the annexe we were surprised to see no dogs inside. The door to the van slightly open and I realised that in my hurry I hadn’t closed it properly, and both dogs had taken themselves into the van.
When I stepped into the van it looked as if there had been a snowstorm. White flakes covered every bit of the floor.
I had left my hat on the bench, within reach of any determined dog! And now two dogs stared at me innocently from the seat where they lay.

I told you travelling with dogs is fun.

http://www.kateloveday.com