Posted by: travelrat | August 24, 2016

Morialta Falls (or should that be Fell?)

Morialta 2

Morialta Falls: 2nd December 2015

 I’ve often heard visitors to England’s landmark waterfalls express disappointment that it wasn’t what they were expecting. The trouble is, most visitors come in the holidays, which is (hopefully) the driest time of the year when the falls, a truly magnificent sight in the winter, are but a feeble trickle, and a fraction of their wet-season grandeur.

It’s not confined to England, either. Mark Twain once described the honeymoon destination of Niagara Falls as ‘ … the American bride’s second great disappointment’. From this statement a) I deduce that he visited at the wrong time of year and b) I feel rather sorry for Mrs. Twain.

Or, Australia! In Adelaide, I made two visits, three years apart, to the Morialta Falls.

There are several creeks flowing from the Adelaide Hills into the Torrens River … incidentally, a ‘river’ in name only. With a lamentable lack of imagination, the early settlers named them First Creek, Second Creek, Third Creek … et.seq; ad. inf. and ad. naus!

In several places, the creeks have formed waterfalls, the best known of which is the triple falls at Morialta … which (probably) the same soulless person has called the First Fall, the Second Fall and the Third Fall. But, they can be quite spectacular in the rainy season.

The First Fall is a fair walk from the car park, but it’s a relatively flat one, along the floor of a wooded, ever-narrowing gorge. There’s better views of all three falls if you take one of the more strenuous Loop Walks up the red gorge walls. These elevated paths give some good views of Adelaide, too. But, we only took a short walk; and only viewed the two upper falls from a distance.

There’s much to be seen at close hand too; a little lizard scurrying across the path, and up a tree … I think this is the first time I’ve seen one outside a sanctuary or a wildlife park …  a sleeping koala.

Morialta 3

I found that the barrier at the entrance was out of use, and reached the conclusion that maybe they only charge admission that they only charge admission when there’s actually water in the falls. There was only the slightest trickle … and, when I visited again, three years later … there wasn’t any!

In spite of the rain the previous night, night, all we saw was an arid cliff-face where the lower fall should be. I did ask a friendly conservation volunteer what time they turned the water on. She knew at once I was joking … but I later reflected this was probably how all those entries on ‘stupid things tourists say’ lists originated.

(Actually, it’s not so stupid; at the Kondalilla Falls in Queensland, which we visited in 2010, they do actually open the sluices in a dam above the falls at set times)

Morialta 1


Posted by: travelrat | August 22, 2016


Skagway 3

Skagway: 10th May 2016

The train stopped just outside Skagway; there didn’t seem to be a railway station as such. I think there was a shuttle bus laid on to take us back to the ship, but we had plenty of time in hand, and the town is fairly compact, so we decided to walk.

Skaqua, as it used to be known, means ‘windy place’, and it was once used by First Nations people for hunting and fishing. But then, in the 1880s, the cry went up ‘There’s gold in them thar hills!’  The population of the quiet village swelled dramatically, for it was not far from the Chilkoot Trail, a traditional Native American trading route, which was a convenient way to get to the goldfields of the Yukon, and it was here that the prospectors would land.

Whether Skagway lay in Alaska or Canada wasn’t settled until 1903, when the present border was established … you may remember that we passed the two flags marking it on the train.

Most of the buildings we passed have been well preserved … although they now sell goods and services more suited to modern tastes. Gone are the trading posts, brothels and saloons; it is said that such places made more money from the gold rush than prospectors ever did. But, the atmosphere still remains … we didn’t actually see anyone being thrown through the saloon window, but wouldn’t have been surprised if we did.

So, it was back to the ship, moored under a cliff, with a snow-covered mountain backdrop. No cheerless, concrete cruise terminal here’ just another excellent photo opportunity

Skagway 2

Posted by: travelrat | August 21, 2016

Travel Theme: Weather

‘I wish the sun would go in, then I wouldn’t feel a need to sit out in it all day’ (Unknown)

‘If you don’t like our weather, wait a minute!’  (Cumbrian saying)

‘If you can see the coast of Ireland from the Mull of Kintyre, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see it, it is raining’ (Scottish saying)

CKA Fengdu

We planned to stay at the Holiday Lodge for a few days, and the proprietor told us that any activities we planned could be booked through him, at a fair discount.

‘But, don’t book them now!’  he said ‘Wait till you get here, then we’ll have a look at the weather forecast’

What excellent advice that was, too! We did the train ride up into the mountains on a glorious day, sailed out to the reef when the cloud was a bit lower … and it rained on the trip to the rain forest.

Things don’t always pan out so neatly, though, so it’s a good idea to have an alternate plan in case the weather conditions aren’t right for your chosen activity. ‘Expect the best, but prepare for the worst’ is pretty good counsel for most things.

If you’re going further afield, you will have researched the weather where you’re going … won’t you? I did a couple of years ago … I packed sweaters, gloves and a woolly hat, but still threw in a pair of shorts, flip-flops and a couple of T-shirts in case the weather-man got it wrong. Guess what? There were a couple of days when he did. I needed everything I packed!

But, we’ve all heard about the person who complained that the cruise line didn’t tell them to bring warm clothing … even though the cruise was going beyond the Arctic Circle, in the middle of winter, to see the Northern Lights.

Really, you might find something to do, whatever the weather. Like the Norwegians say: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’  And, I remember the late Harry Griffin’s advice on what to do on one of the (frequent) rainy days in the English Lake District:

‘Go and watch waterfalls, get drunk or make love!’

Our Street 1

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. See more at

Posted by: travelrat | August 19, 2016

The Smoke Signal Syndrome

Bodelwyddan 1

These days, it sometimes seems you can’t buy anything mechanical or electronic, from a toaster to a car, unless it comes with a lot of ‘features’ you don’t need, and never use. Take, for instance, an ad I recently saw for a video camera that lets you ‘instantly upload your footage to the Internet.’

Not, I think a desirable feature; I’ve just sat through an Instagram of shaky video and a gabbled commentary … and switched it off halfway. Now, wouldn’t it have been much better if he’d taken it home, sat down at his computer, and edited it; just taken the good bits, and added some music, and maybe a scripted commentary?  The subject was interesting enough, it just got spoiled by a desire to share it as soon as possible.

It’s the same with still pictures, too. I know someone … I just ‘unfriended’ him on Facebook … who kept uploading each and every picture he took, as soon as he could find an internet connection. Again, I think it’s much better to take them home, have a look at them on the computer screen, and maybe crop and adjust where necessary. Then, upload only the best ones, which you think will be of interest to others.

When I worked in communications in the Royal Air Force, we often spoke of the ‘Smoke Signal Rule’, which held that, the easier communication got, the more trivial and meretricious was the material passed down it. Whereas, a Native American would only climb a hill with a load of firewood and a blanket, and light a signal fire if he had something important to say.

There’s a lot of pictorial dross uploaded to social media these days, so, if you want to get a lot of people clicking the ‘Like’ button … take your stuff home, cut, crop, edit … and, above all, THINK!

Posted by: travelrat | August 17, 2016

Old Wardour Castle

Wardour 1

Old Wardour Castle: 15th July 2016

One of the perks of working as an English Heritage volunteer at Stonehenge is that, fairly frequently, outings are arranged for us. This time, we went to another English Heritage property. Old Wardour Casle.

You’ll probably recognise Old Wardour from the film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’. According to the film, it’s just outside Carcassonne, to which Robin journeyed by way of Hadrian’s Wall. In actual fact, though, it’s near Tisbury, in Wiltshire, and is reached by way of a tortuous country road … which is probably why it doesn’t receive anything like as many visitors as we do at Stonehenge.

The castle is in ruins, and has been since the Civil War. At that time, it was occupied by the staunchly Royalist Arundell family. It was besieged by Parliamentarian forces, and, in the absence of Lord Arundell, the garrison of only 25 men, led by the formidable Lady Blanche Arundell, held out for six days against a besieging force of about 1300.

Eventually, Lady Blanche surrendered, but it wasn’t long before Lord Arundell decided he wanted his castle back, and laid siege to the place once more. The royalists laid explosive charges underneath the castle … but it’s believed these were accidentally set off by the defenders, destroying the castle wall, and leading to the eventual surrender of the Parliamentarian forces.

(This, I suspect, was the origin of the phrase ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ … long before Michael Caine made it famous!)

The castle was partly rebuilt and made habitable, but, in 1776, the Arundells built New Wardour nearby, retaining the ruins of the old castle as a ‘folly’, or landscape feature, where they would often hold outdoor balls, picnics and other celebrations. You can still do that today; you can even get married there.

And, that’s something you can’t do at Stonehenge!

Old Wardour Castle

Posted by: travelrat | August 15, 2016

Elder Park: Video

Elder Park 4

Not much more to say about a walk in the Park … except put up a video!

Music: ‘At Rest’ Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Posted by: travelrat | August 14, 2016

Travel Theme: Writing

‘It is not good enough to write so that everyone can understand you. You must write so that no-one can possibly misunderstand you’ (N. Bonaparte) 

Diary 1

This week, we’re tasked to talk about writing. Great! Finally, something I know a little bit about. I used to do it as a hobby, then I made a bit of money at it … now, it’s largely a hobby again, although a few cents does occasionally trickle its way into my PayPal account. So, I’ll tell all about writing. You have an hour or two? No? Damn, I’ll have to concentrate on only one facet of the craft.

It usually starts with my Journals. These, or rather, the latest volume, I carry with me wherever I go. In them go my notes, first impressions and also tickets, leaflets and other stuff, to remind me of the trip. Really, it’s a sort of cross between a journal and a scrapbook.

At a slack time, I’ll transcribe my notes to my tablet, making them a bit more grammatical, and maybe adding a few bits and pieces. If I can find any wifi, I’ll upload a copy to my Dropbox.

Usually, I’ll only post a brief description of where I’ve been, and what I’ve seen/done here, and on Facebook. The main body of my notes can wait till I get home. Then, they’ll be downloaded, polished up some more, and become blog posts.

Posts, plural, that is! Many people type out a long screed, describing the whole trip, and upload it as one post. I prefer to parcel it out, and deal with one activity at once, and try to wrap it up in about 3-400 words.

I can then make longer articles by ‘pasting together’ two or three blog posts, and ‘sanding over the cracks’, as it were. And, I’ve also tried combining articles for a book! I’m not sure how that worked out, though; at the moment, I could take everyone who’s bought it out to dinner, and not gasp too much when the bill arrived!

Diary 2

This post is this week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. See more at

Posted by: travelrat | August 12, 2016

White Pass & Yukon Railroad: Video


Skagway: 10th May 2016

 I made a mistake when I made this video. Fraser isn’t in the Yukon Territory; it’s over the border, in British Columbia. However, the name of the railway isn’t a misnomer; the line continues to Carcross, which is in Yukon. Now that I’ve dealt with these small points, there isn’t really much more to say about the railway. So, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Yukon Railway

Posted by: travelrat | August 10, 2016

The Sleeper Bus


I first saw a vehicle like this in a lay-by on Anglesey back in the 1970s. The coach was pulling a trailer, which contained a sort of field-kitchen affair, doling out hamburgers and sausages to the coach passengers. The trailer also contained … sleeping compartments, which looked more like those specialised trucks they carry racing pigeons around in.

The idea will never catch on, I thought … until, over 30 years later, I saw this vehicle in the coach park at Stonehenge. It was different to the one on Anglesey, in that the sleeping quarters were actually part of the bus, not on a trailer. And, although the ‘field kitchen’ is still incorporated, the courier told me they offer a far more varied menu than hamburgers and sausage.

Well, I thought … there is such a thing as a sleeper train, so why not a sleeper coach?

Out of curiosity, I checked out their website … they’re at … and found they offer tours all over the world; some of them to remote places. They operate a variety of vehicles, from an all-in-one coach, for European travel to more sturdy rigs for wilder places, with the sleeping quarters/kitchen in a separate trailer.

There was one question unanswered … what did they do about washing and toilet arrangements? ‘We park up at campsites for the night, and use their facilities’, the courier told me. Presumably, they make other arrangements when they really go out into really remote areas?

So, it’s not really a ‘curiosity’ … it’s a 20-seater RV, really!

Posted by: travelrat | August 8, 2016

Whales, bears, trains and stuff

Whale 1

What I’m about to say could get me expelled from the camera club for blasphemy, but I’ve just come to the conclusion that photography isn’t the be-all and end-all of travelling. You can still have the experiences, and usually, nobody’s going to disbelieve you, and insist on seeing ‘photographic evidence’ of your travels

I’ve been putting a bit of stuff on the Web lately, which I’ve had to qualify with the words ‘I didn’t get any satisfactory photographs’. Maybe I did get some pictures, but not, I thought, good enough to share online. I always remember a very good friend, who, when told his pictures ‘came out well’ usually replied:

‘If they hadn’t, you wouldn’t have seen them!’

I once read an interview with a National Geographic photographer, who said he could shoot over a dozen rolls of film on an assignment, but maybe only two frames would be used … if he was lucky. I’m not that selective, but generally, I sort those pictures that do pass muster into ‘good’ (which I’m prepared to share on the web) and ‘great’, which I’ll enter into competitions and the like.

The other day, the Rocky Mountaineer train people announced a competition for photos taken from their trains. I have plenty of photos, I thought; my camera hardly stopped. But, I changed my mind when I took a closer look. Only about a dozen fell into the ‘good’ category … although there were more that could be ‘rescued’ with a little cropping. And, only two could be classified as ‘great’

So, let’s hope the judges think they’re ‘great’, too.

I’m not crossing any of these great experiences off the list. I’d go again tomorrow, given the chance. And, I’d still take my camera with me.

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