The Magpie Dance part 2

A stark reminder

This image from Insight Magazine

A pretty scary brush with a magpie this man had in Melbourne, Victoria where this seems as common as it is in Queensland.

Makes me wonder if for some of us this may be another reason for lock down?

Mount Field National Park

Tasmania, Feb 2020

Trout in incredible clear water, Mount Field (by blogger)

Water – so clear.

An astonishing national park about an hours drive out of Hobart.

Echidna or Spiny Anteater. The cutest little mammal who, along with the platypus are the only living mammals to lay eggs (Mount Field National Park).

This little chap is called a Pademelon, a small forest dwelling marsupial at Mount Field.

The Swamp Gum which can grow up to 30 metres.

Butcherbird doing food delivery service for offspring

Brisbane October 12, 2020


While the newly fledged offspring is trying out its wings, its parent is rushing around arranging dinner. Having found a yummy skink, the butcherbird prepares dinner in the comparative privacy of the carport, and now follows the offspring around like a helicopter parent with eats. A bit like mum pitching up at school with the lunchbox.


The choice cut?


And what the heck are you looking at ?

Needless to say, the remains on the cutting table was quickly nabbed by another Butcherbird while mum was out delivering dinner.

Spirit of Tasmania

Crossing the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Devonport on the Spirit of Tasmania in June 2000. Since then, travel restrictions may have changed and this account may not reflect the current requirements for travel.

(Permission to travel on this crossing was obtained from the Tasmanian State Controller before this travel was booked).

The Spirit of Tasmania ferries are moored at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Driving to the port is a relatively easy thing but don’t be surprised if your satnav takes you through some cute and narrow residential streets in the last few kilometres. Mine was a 1700km drive from Queensland over three days and 2 nights. It pays to keep an eye on the time on the last day of the drive. You have to be there well in advance of sailing time which is understandable. Time and tide waiteth for no man as the saying goes.

In the queue, just before driving on board.

This is a pretty large vessel you discover as you drive into the cavernous hold among massive freight trucks and other vehicles. You are parked in a tight and strictly first in first out queue and get woken in your cabin at first light with an announcement to get down to your vehicle for disembarking. If you oversleep, you will be holding quite a few people up, as the man parked in front of me did.

The cabins have a minimal feel. At first I couldn’t quite place the “not quite Scandi” design. Later I learned where these ships were built: Finland, and that explained it all. There is a good hot shower, basin and toilet in a well configured design . It was June 2020 and due to COVID-19 all pubs and amenities onboard were closed and passengers were confined to their cabins for the duration, sustained by a brown bag of snacks, fruit and a bottle of juice.

Leaving the lights of Melbourne behind as we enter the Bass Strait, heading for Devonport on Tasmania’s northern cosatline.

Ferry crossing quite smooth with some gentle rolling. Woken at 6am and instructed to get down to our cars.

Once we had driven our vehicles off the ferry at Devonport, we were directed to join a police convoy, complete with flashing lights, to a secure parking area. Here we were met by some friendly Tasmanian policemen who relieved us of our cars and then formally read us our directions and legal obligations on entering quarantine. We were then bussed to our quarantine facilities. We were told to each take whatever we thought we would need in quarantine for the next 14 days and leave the rest in our cars.

Thus began the 2 week quarantine period. The view from the quarantine facility overlooked the port and the coming and going of the Spirit of Tasmania at 6am and 6pm daily. In between, two weeks of mostly waiting for the next meal to arrive.

On day 15 we were taken back to our cars in a bus, given quarantine certificate, and finally let loose into the sate of Tasmania!

Some of Brisbane’s bridges

A lightweight look at traversing the city
By blogger

Although it has a port, Brisbane is not so much a seaside city as a river city. The Brisbane river snakes through it and there are a lot of bridges. Here are a few of them.

Near the port and the mouth of the Brisbane River is the Gateway Bridge. It links the major motorways to the north and south and it is high enough to allow the ocean liners in.

Internet image

Further along is the iconic Story Bridge. It links the inner city precincts of Fortitude Valley and Chinatown with Wooloongabba (of “Gabba” cricket ground fame).

Story Bridge (image by blogger)

It has pedestrian and cycle lanes clipped on either side.

Image by blogger
Story bridge (blogger)

Further into the city, the sleek white shape of the Captain Cook bridge swoops incisively into the CBD. It becomes the Riverside Expressway with its prehensile grip on the river banks and concrete piles driven deep into the river bed. Also in the pic below is the Goodwill Pedestrian bridge

Goodwill pedestrian bridge (left ), Captain Cook Bridge and riverside express (internet image)

Since the above pic was taken, a new building dominates the riverside. 1 William Street, and the current tenant is the Queensland Government. Its known as the Tower of Power along with a few more unsavoury names.

Riverside expressway and 1 William street (internet image)

Below the riverside express and going under the Kurilpa Bridge, the Bicentennial Cycleway.

Bicentennial cycleway (By blogger)

Below is another pic of the Goodwill Bridge. It gives pedestrians and cyclists access directly into the university campus and the Botanical Gardens and joins up with the cycle track.

Goodwill Bridge image by blogger

Next is the Victoria Bridge (below) which cuts straight into the city from South Brisbane. The bridge forms part of a bus commuter hub. All buses to and from the south stop here.

Victoria Bridge (internet image)
Victoria bridge by night (by blogger)

Below: Suspended by cables and masts, the Kurilpa bridge. A pedestrian and cycle only bridge, Kurilpa links the art galleries, libraries and museums on the south side to the serious part of the CBD, where you would find the law courts.

Image by Paulguard at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kurilpa Bridge and Victoria Bridge By Paulguard

A night time view of the Kurilpa bridge. The engineering term for the design is Tensegrity. See

Kurilpa Bridge by night (internet image)

It has viewing platforms which break out of the sides of the walkway and chilled water fountains for the hot weather which sometimes work. The Kuripla Bridge is largely “off grid” and its lighting is solar powered.

A few more bridges cross the River in the greater Brisbane area but that’s probably enough for now and I may cover them in another post. Most of the Bridges of Brisbane cater for walkers and cyclists and some of them have interesting designs and stories behind them.

Brisbane dwellers are fiercely loyal about the side of the river on which they live (North or South) and never the twain shall meet. However they seem to love nothing better than strolling or pedalling over a bridge, as if to sample the forbidden fruit on the other side.

Or in most cases, more likely the coffee.

A moment in my family’s history

A boy’s childhood memory from over a hundred years ago preserved by his daughters

This photograph was taken in 1902 in a British prisoner of war camp in South Africa. Seated and recently interned with his family is my maternal great-grandfather Stephanus de Villiers. Posing on the left (with the water-carrying gear) is his son Wrensch and his wife Jacoba, holding the broom. Standing in the doorway is his daughter Anna and on the right is Peter, his youngest son and our grandfather.

Six generations before this photograph was taken, in 1689, Jacques de Villiers (Stephanus’s ancestor, aged 27), had arrived at the Cape of Good Hope from Bourgogne in France on board the Dutch East India vessel, the Zion. Jacques was a French Huguenot, a wine farmer who was offered passage to the Cape by the Dutch East India company when the Edict of Fontainebleau was signed by Louis XIV of France. The edict called for the destruction and burning of all French Huguenot churches and schools and Jacques must have decided this would be a good time to leave France. And so he headed to The Cape with the Dutch East India company which was needing people to farm the land in Africa.

He was not to know that six generations later some of his descendants would be facing a similar situation.

Now back to the picture and Peter on the right, who was 12 years old at that time. Before he died in 1975, with his eyesight failing, his two daughters (my mother and her sister) sat with him and recorded his recollections of that time as a 12 year old boy. His father Stephanus had been called up to fight the against the British. Jacoba and her 3 children were left to witness the burning of the family farmhouse and confiscation of their possessions. Hundreds of head of cattle were taken or killed.

Peter’s most chilling recollection was the twanging sound of the strings of the family piano as it burned in the cold night air in the darkness.

In the midst of all the chaos and destruction directed by a British forces captain who was no doubt following commands, there is a little story within a story. One of the Anglo troops, a young Australian, had surreptitiously tried to assist young Anna, by helping her to hide her good riding boots and saddle from the plundering. But to no avail and they got taken. He also offered to set free Anna’s caged bird before the house was burned but she was afraid that it would be taken by predators so he took it away to safety. After the war was over, he apparently came back to visit her, offering to return the bird, but she declined.

Possibly a case of unrequited infatuation.

My aunt wrote:

(With thanks to Peter’s daughters, Rene and Doreen, whose efforts to record their father’s memories and preserve the family documents and photographs, provided us with this small snapshot of this period).

New Zealand: Cycling the South Otago Rail Trail

I had always wanted to ride on this cycle trial and in February 2019, at the age of 63, I finally got there. With mixed results.

I contacted Phil, the obliging owner of Altitude Cycles in Alexandra. The entire cycle trail route from Middlemarch to Clyde is 150km but to experience the most entertaining parts he recommended dropping me at Auripo for a 50 km ride back to Alexandra (places highlighted in yellow above). A good idea for day one. It includes spectacular bridges, the Poolburn Gorge and 2 tunnels. I was stoked at the prospect. After that I could consider a ride on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail the next day, then a visit to Glenorchy, my most favourite of places.

The arrow shows the approximate location of the cycle trail, (45 degrees south) which follows an arc between Dunedin and Queenstown. The history of this rail line is paraphrased from official site of the Otago Central Rail Trail:

Following the successes of the 1860 gold rushes, the railway was built to get the farmers’ produce to market. It took 42 years for the line to reach its final destination in Crommwell in 1921. By 1991 the line had become uneconomic and so the railway tracks were ripped up to make way for this gently graded track for cyclists, walkers and horse-riders.

From the Website of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

To his surprise, Phil had no other cyclists booked on this trip so I was doing a solo run. He was not in the least perturbed and during the 50 km drive to Auripo crossing with my bike on the back, he filled me in on life in Alexandra and Central Otago. It sounded inviting. “Alex” has the reputation of having both the coldest as well as the hottest temperatures in NZ. This country is mainly tussock grasslands and it is dry by comparison with the lush green hills of the north island. The sun is pretty fierce in this crystal clear atmosphere.

Auripo Station, my starting point. Sensations: silence, solitude and space. After decades living in a noisy crowded world, disconcerting but stimulating.

Quick early stop, about 15 minutes in, just to chill out and take in those wide open spaces.

The Poolburn Gorge viaduct. 121 feet high and 358 foot long. I did not stop for a photo opp in the middle. Not fond of heights and perhaps a little overwhelmed, I just kept pedalling!

The first tunnel. Actually tunnel no 12 of the whole 150 km route. Inside the tunnel, pitch dark. The headlamp I had thoughtfully brought from Brisbane safely tucked into a shoe in my suitcase at my lodgings in Alexandra. Thankfully, had the phone torch.


A gathering of bikes and people before the second tunnel. A chat and some photos.

After the second tunnel, which was a curved one with no light at the end of it until the finish, comes the 2nd viaduct, also curved. After that, Lauder Station.

Next, Omakau

Next, a gathering storm

Photo by blogger

By this time, with the storm truly gathering I had to admit that for the past 20 km I had been becoming increasingly ill . With a burning throat and fever I had to accept that this was not my imagination. Fortunately the last 10 km home was an easy downhill ride to hand the bike back to Phil.

Outcome: the rest of my time in New Zealand spent recovering from the flu in a holiday cabin in Timaru.

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