Monday, March 28, 2011

Discover the Heart of the Flinders

Air Adventure Australia has a four day air safari to one of the most amazing parts of Australia:  The Flinders Ranges.  They are one of the oldest land formations on earth and at one point, would have been higher than Mt. Everest is today - that is until time, and the elements, whittled them down to their present size.

My first trip to this region was not by air, but by coach and driver.  Among the surprises delights in store for me was a couple of nights at Arkaroola Station, owned by Renaissance man Doug Sprigg.  Pilot, astronomer, geologist, and raconteur, Doug has the largest privately owned telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.  That, along with no light pollution, means Arkaroola is a perfect place for sky-watching. 

In August, 2003, Mars was the closest it had been to Earth in 50,000 years.  What better place to see it then from Doug's telescope? Except, it was too cloudy to see anything.  So we sat around long after dinner was over, listening to Doug tell story after story (including a massive engineering project he was consulting on to create electricity from superheated underground water.).  Finally, exhausted (late) I said good night and walked out of the dining hall.  And immediately ran back in screaming "There aren't any clouds!" 

We loaded up into Doug's Ute, drove to the telescope, he fixed on Mars and we all got a view.  It was quite amazing, mystical, powerful.  Time - at least our human time - is so insignificant when put into the lense of our expanding universe.

The next morning, we went out on the Ridgetop Tour, a hair-raising drive along narrow dirt tracks with hair-pin turns in this great expanse of red pocked by silvery-green scrub grasses.  Vast doesn't begin to describe it.   I mention this because Air Adventure has several itineraries to remote parts of Australia - places that would take months to see by land.  Places that are barely accessible, hardly seen by humans, places of such rare beauty that we can barely find words.  The Flinders Ranges are only one option they, and other air operators, offer.

The opening photo is of The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna.  The town has an official population of 7 people, which actually went up by one when I was there (someone gave birth.)  I love this hotel.  Really, it's amazingly bizarre, beautifully put together, and a great restaurant.  They feature Flinders Feral Food - yes, feral - Bush food or Australian native cuisine or as they call it in the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Feral Food - kangaroo, emu, yabbie, quandongs, native limes and bush tomatoes are just some of their fresh ingredients.  Just because you're beyond the back of beyond, it doesn't mean you don't get to eat well.

There are so many places in Australia I'd love to send you - please contact me for your own experience.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

But My Lip Gloss Was Confiscated!

TSA missed 3 boxcutters on flight from JFK and the TSA said the screeners will get "remedial training."  The TSA, which is very task-driven, loves to enforce rules, which is why they confiscated my favorite lip gloss a few years ago - it was, apparently, in too large a tube.  I was flying with a friend who happened to have a Swiss Army Knife in her handbag and that got through, but my very dangerous lip gloss did not.

I suppose I could have used this gloss to build a make-shift weapon of mass destruction using duct tape and my friend's knife, but I am not very scientifically oriented.  The color was a lovely neutral shade that made me look sun-tan.  Because I eschew tanning to maintain my ivory white complexion, I love using cosmetics to fake it. 

I did have to go through a pat-down at LAX once, and also had to go through the full body scan another time.  They must have word of my lip gloss use, or else it is quite random.  I mean, I'm 62, a grandmother, and kind of short.  Clearly this makes me a threat.  Like most Americans, TSA treats me like a criminal while their own employees tend to get remedial training for various mistakes. 

Let's make sure nobody threatens us with lip gloss again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is There Ever Enough Garlic?

Photo by Bill Strange

The Gilroy Garlic Festival proves that garlic can be a way of life!

10 tons of beef... 4 tons of pasta... 4 tons of calamari... 2 tons of scampi
2 TONS of fresh Christopher Ranch garlic
& $8.5 million raised for local charity

The July festival (July 29-31, 2011 this year) celebrates garlic with recipe & cooking contests, entertainment, a gourmet alley food & beverage area, a children's area, arts & crafts, and, of course, a Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen contest.

Not far from Santa Cruz, California, this is a wonderful stop on a California Vacation.  California is a beautiful state, with much to explore - and the aroma from Gilroy at the end of July is amazing.  Yes, Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World!  Try it, c'mon down!

Monday, March 7, 2011


Gadling is one of my favorite travel sites.  It is eccelctic, informative, and practical. Always newsworthy, image rich, and frequently playful.  One of today's posts was about National Geographic Channel's new show, "How Hard Can It Be?" 

For an upcoming episode, the crew attached 300 helium-filled balloons to a house, which then flew to 10,000 feet.  They filmed the house, which remained airborne for an hour, as it floated over the Southern California desert.  Inspired by the wonderful film, Up, "How Hard Can It Be?" might have stumbled upon the next great mode of travel.  Thanks, Gadling, for bringing a smile to my face!