Who I am and why I blog

My husband Ken and I (Lesley) live in the beautiful Blue Mountains in NSW Australia. We have 2 adult daughters and one son In law. We retired, downsized and moved from the western suburbs to our current location 2016. I say retired however we both still work part-time. My husband and I were married in 1968 and are proud of the fact we are still together today. We are average people who have experienced good and bad in our life times and can say we have learnt a lot over the years.

We are in love with our current situation as we have each other and are surrounded by the natural wonders found in the mountains. We have great neighbours, our girls live within a half hour drive. We own our home and we have some part-time income to supplement our part pension. Our lives are busy and interesting. We both have hobbies and we both like living together. Ive heard this is not always the case when partners retire. We did both work together in our own business for approx 18 years prior to retirement so I guess we were pretty used to each other by then.

We have a meaningful group of friends who fill our lives with fun, interest and drama of course.

Why I chose to blog

I like to write down my thoughts, I like to have an opinion, I like to learn from others. I like to keep my mind active.

These are the reasons I chose to start this blog. I am not particularly profound in any one subject, I am certainly not highly educated nor am I specifically interested in any one thing. My childhood was not fantastic but not horrific. I married at age 16 which is usually intriguing to others. I have dealt with and been surrounded by illness including mental illness from a young age. I have worked continuously from age 14 and have experienced many highs and many lows. I have seen a lot of changes in the world during my 69 years. I have to say I am quite interested in human behaviour on a basic level. I have no education in this area and therefore no expertise but I have experience and I am happy to talk about it. I also find talking or writing in this way very healing and a good way of putting things into perspective. I do fear loneliness and isolation in my aging person and I am hoping that blogging will keep me in touch with the world if and when I do end up alone. I hope to engage with others via my blog and look forward to reading other blogs, hearing other opinions and hopefully providing and receiving some laughs through the process.

How important are Memorial Services?

Recently I attended a funeral for a friends mum, actually her step mum. A gracious women who earned the right to be called a mum in every sense of the word. My story today is not about this lady, although her story should be told, but about the process of her passing. Sadly as we age, so do, our family and friends and as we attend more funerals we notice a reduction in our circle of love and support.
The lady I refer to was nearing 103 when she finally said goodbye to her time on earth. Of course there had been time for her family and friends to mentally prepare for her passing. This does not reduce the sadness of the loss when it finally comes. I have in recent years attended a couple of funerals for very close friends which were extremely painful experiences at the time, but as the months go by I am remembering the time, more for its beauty rather than its sadness. The words that stayed with me the most during this particular service was that of the celebrant. She mentioned with a positive glow that it was pleasing to see, so many people attending the service for someone this age. I looked around and thought to myself there was only around 30 people in the room, which seemed like a small number to me. I then wondered to myself how many funerals must occur with fewer or sadly no people in attendance. The celebrant went on to say some beautiful words and reiterated this fine ladies life admirably. My immediate thoughts were sad but slowly turned to joy when I realised the amount of young people in the room who had come to say goodbye and show their respect for the life this lady had lived. The words of kindness of the happy times they had spent together, the lessons learned, the valuable knowledge passed on to the younger persons in the room, who, on this day, had no concept of the life they were going to live. This was something positive to grab hold of. It was a brief moment where I personally found calm and happiness. Further to this, watching the slide show of photographs and hearing the contented sighs of those being reminded of good times, the joy in seeing their eyes light up when relating to a moment in their past, again this all brings a happiness to the day. Later in the day as I listened to the stories of her life, all told with animation and personal experience my thoughts were reinforced.

Admittedly I was not close to this lovely lady and therefore not absorbed by grief. I was lucky enough to experience these feelings in the here and now. So I ask those who are grieving now, if and when you are able, it may be worth revisiting this day. There is a happiness that can be found among the grief of losing a loved one. Time heals the pain and hopefully the good memories become the only memories. Once the grief becomes less dominant and we are able to think clearly once again there is much to value and reflect on. This is just my opinion, I personally think a memorial service is important. The form that service takes is of course a very personal one and should be the choice of those closest to the loved one and any wishes of the loved one should be considered deeply. Having said that I also believe attendance is not something everyone can emotionally deal with and therefore there should be no criticism of one not attending a service. There is no right or wrong in how one deals with their own personal grief.

We who remain behind can only hope we have touched or influenced at least one younger person in the life we have led.

Ballarat/The Grampians/Mungo National Park

Ballarat to Mungo National Park 30th March to 6th April 2022

In April 2018 Ken was attending the NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) held bi-annually over Easter. That particular year it was held at Ballarat, NSW from 30th March to 2nd April. I decided to join him, and we extended our trip to encompass The Grampians in Victoria and Mungo National Park in NSW.

We had not been to Ballarat for quite some time. We arrived at the Mecure Hotel at Ballarat the day before the start of the conference. We first went for a drive to a local area called Lal Lal Falls. This town originated in 1885 as a sheep station. It is only 20 mins out of Ballarat with a tiny population of under 500. The waterfall was not flowing but there were a couple of very easy walks close by. It is a very pretty countryside with an abundance of kangaroos leaping through the trees. The conference is a series of talks on varying astronomical subjects and a visit to the local Ballarat Astronomical Society’s clubhouse to meet up with the local astronomers and view their facilities. We met some friendly, interesting people and enjoyed a  light dinner before wandering back to the hotel with an early start the next morning.

We visited the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, one of Australia’s most significant cool climate gardens. The grounds are beautifully kept with many features such as a conservatorium and a hothouse together with many statues including the avenue of prime ministers. Lunch in their café and then off to walk the six kilometres around Lake Wendouree. The lake is an artificial man-made shallow lake opposite the gardens. It has a paved walking track completely around the perimeter which can be taken at your own speed. It is long but easy with many different views to be taken in. The ducks and swans, birds and artifacts surrounding the water are very pleasing. A very relaxing day overall.

The Great Ocean Road is the next leg of the trip. From Torquay to Allansford. The road is over 100 years old and is 243 km of ocean views. We have been on this road many years prior, in fact, I think there may have been 12 apostles the last time we were there (some had collapsed in the intervening years). This time however a lot less. The road is easy, the views are fantastic and it with now improved facilities, tourists are well catered for. This is a good thing for the country but obviously more people and more traffic frequent the area.  We still loved it and highly recommend it. Whether it is sunny, cloudy, or rainy the beauty of the coastline is not diminished. There are many things besides the ocean to see, lighthouses, artifacts, walking tracks and activities are plentiful. On this trip, we were not stopping off too much as we had more to see.

After visiting the highlights along the road, we turned off and head to The Grampians National Park. This park spans an area of 413 thousand acres. It is a series of low angled sandstone ridges. The area has bushwalking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, camping, animals, pubs, café, lookouts and much more. It is peaceful, spacious, and the animals are friendly and plentiful. We were there for the great walks and lookouts. Hopefully, the photos below give you an idea of its beauty and its accessibility.

We spent a couple of beautiful days here and then headed on our way to Mildura and the start of our short stay in Mungo National Park around 115 km from the town centre.

There is approx. 80 km of dirt road into the park and then a further 80 km out the other side to exit.  We had arranged to stay at the lodge in Mungo for two nights. The worry with this entry is that if the road is not accessible then you are stuck at the lodge. It is a bit of a concern but everything we had read indicated it was worth the effort. Go to mungolodge.com.au for information on accommodation and tours. According to Wikipedia, the park is part of the Unesco World Heritage-listed Willandra lakes region. It covers an area of 274,210 acres. The main feature of the park is Lake Mungo, the second largest of the ancient dry lakes. The Park is noted for the archaeological remains discovered in the park.

We grabbed a takeaway coffee and drove out of Mildura with some trepidation about the quality of the road we were about to endure. The long and wide dusty road stretches in front of you with the typical low lying Australian bush lining the sides of the road. Looking ahead the vast blue skies, green foliage, and deep orange of the road project a stunning view into the wilderness. The road was deserted, we passed the odd vehicle heading back to town. About an hour and a half into the drive we come across the Mungo Lodge. What a pleasant sight. The lodge area and the cabins are laid out in a large circle dotted with shady green trees. The lodge itself is clean, bright, and welcoming. Once registered we headed to our cabin. It was just perfect, large, clean, and very comfortable. A beautiful breeze flows from front to back and a quaint veranda out front and a small porch out the back. All the comforts for a relaxing couple of days. We had booked tours so unpacked and headed over to the lodge for more details. The owners and the staff are super friendly and helpful, and we find ourselves on the Walls of China Sunset Tour.

A small group of people, an excellent guide and a perfect night resulted in a very awe-inspiring evening followed by dinner and drinks. I am hoping the photos say enough as words do little to describe the beauty of the area. The changing colours of the landscape minute by minute were awesome to see. 

The following day after a quiet relaxing evening was very interesting. We did a small drive and a walk to the surrounding area. The landscape is lunar-like, featuring dried up lake beds and sand dunes for miles. Scrub and berries, small trees, and desolate areas where you think nothing could live. Keeping our eyes alert, we found a small kangaroo and her baby, lizards, and other crawling beings. 

After morning tea another organised tour began. The Mungo Woolshed and Visitors centre, the Zanci Station Homestead. Once again, our guide was very knowledgeable, easy to listen to and had many stories to tell. The land is harsh and from the stories told, the people that lived on it were warm, resourceful, and very resilient. We were told The Mungo Lady story, of bones that were discovered in 1968 by a geologist named Jim Bowler. They are said to be about 40,000 years old and show clear signs of intentional cremation and a ritual burial. A further search in 1974 disclosed the bones of a man, buried on his back with hands crossed in his lap and red ochre sprinkled on his body. The details of this ritual showed signs of an advanced culture.

To finish the day a walk around the grounds of the lodge had some interesting moments. Emus, birdlife, lizards, and kangaroos. Dinner and some wine under the stars saw us heading to bed, happy and content with our visit.

An early breakfast before packing and heading the opposite way out of Mungo along another dirt road toward Balranald approx. 2 hrs away.  From here we headed to Orange to meet up with some friends for dinner and an overnight stay. 

That ends our extended trip and we head home to normality once again. I encourage you all to travel around this beautiful country of ours. There is so much to see. I look forward to reading your comments below. Have you been to any of these places and what did you like or dislike about them?

Thank you for reading.

Seniors Embracing Technology

Too many options with technology – Is this the problem?

I wrote about this subject in one of my first blog posts. The only thing changed since then is more technology and more confusion. It is such a catch 22 situation. If you don’t keep up, life can be quite difficult however to keep up it is quite stressful. I am not sure about anyone else, but I continually hear myself saying things like, ” I am over technology” or “No more passwords” and continually feeling frustrated at my lack of knowledge. The thing is, it is so much a part of our day to day living that we cannot avoid it. Have you noticed how whenever you buy a new appliance there is very little instruction included in the package? You must go on line and everything will be explained. That is true, everything you want is there but unfortunately I have to keep going back to google to find out what all the symbols and abbreviated words mean before I can go on.

There is API, ATM, BSS, CPU, DHCP, DSl, GMAC, IDS, IMAP, LAN, MDF, POP, RAM, SDN, SSID, VC, VPN, WAN, WPA and the list goes on forever. Some of the instructions you receive assume you have done a software engineers degree before buying the product. If I was to rewrite the instructions in language I could understand I am sure it would be 4 pages longer.

We have a security system at home, this is a good thing, and it works we think, The technician installs the equipment, presses a million buttons on the mobile phone and away he goes. We are left with a screen which shows us four different views. He tells us all the wonderful things it will do. We know how to turn the alarm on and off. This is all great and we are happy with what we have paid for. Warning! do not change anything or press the wrong button by mistake, all hell will break loose, and you are left looking at dots and dashes and meaningless symbols until you call the trusty technician for instruction. This is just typical with everything we own now. Sometimes you can be lucky and press the right symbol without even knowing it. You pat yourself on the back and think how clever you are, until the next time when a blank screen makes you question,” is that the right button” Don’t get me started on our own personal motor vehicle advisor Siri who manages the radio/phone/music/GPS and much more I am sure. If you do not speak Siri language forget it. Then there is Google Home which constantly talks back to me and refuses to do what I ask. The only positive statement I can make is to marvel in the middle of the night when the world is in thrown into darkness, I need no lights to find my way around home as it has its own navigational pathway of blinking lights and beeping sounds on every apparatus I own.

I must say here, I would not wish to go back in time before now. I am privileged and I appreciate just how much knowledge technology has bought and how much easier my life has been made by it. What I will say is I envy the younger generations ease with the constant changing evolution of technology. I hope I live for another 20 years to see what is coming next.

Conversations as Seniors – Writing v Verbal.

Articulating oneself is not always easy especially as we age.

Recently I heard one of my daughters relay an old conversation of ours onto someone else. The subject matter of which we were referring to was of a very emotional content. What amazed me when I heard her version was the number of times my words were misinterpreted. Hearing it back I can understand this, as my emotions controlled my words and articulation left the building. Interestingly I am aware of this when people talk in person and understand totally how arguments develop, however the exchange of words I am referring to was all in writing.It highlighted to me that behind the words we choose to write, there are a lot of meanings that are not conveyed to the recipient. I have always thought this when verbalising conversations and for that reason had relied on writing as a medium. More extensive words can be used and more time taken to exchange. Sadly I now believe I am mistaken.

One would think the written word would make it easy to remove some of the ambiguity of the English language. I find when I write I start with an idea, or quote or statement and add my thoughts. What happens though once I start rereading,editing, and interpreting, quite often a new angle or a new perspective is reached. I then change things a little and go through the process of editing again. Writing for a blog, a journal or an essay is completely different to having a written personal dialogue with someone. There are so many factors which effect human interractions. Generational differences, environmental influences, experienced behaviour with the subject matter and the actual timing of the exchange.In general communication is often very flawed. This is not news to most of us, especially those of us in our senior years. We have all had many occasions over our lifetime when we have regretted what we have said as it was fuelled by anger or fear and even love. Equally there are many times we wish we had said more or offered more but at the time were guided by different influences.

Articulating what one wants to say is hard and listening to what is being said is a skill few of us have. I have completed several communication and training courses and therefore should be good at relaying and receiving but when it comes to my family or emotional issues I fail miserably in verbalising or writing my thoughts clearly. My emotions are always heightened and my need to keep things calm are always present. The result of this is compound. When you are worried about what to say your mind is occupied and you are not listening as you should. You are constantly thinking how I can convey my thoughts without sounding mean, judgemental or thoughtless. In the process of “being so thoughtful” you may in fact be missing the whole point of the conversation. You are constantly behind the conversation. In personal situations the effect of this for many people may result in less conversation, less understanding and in many cases more arguments and more distance.

These days we no longer wait a week for the letter to arrive and then savour every word written, we no longer use the telephone to talk and listen for hours. Family members and friends are often busy with multiply commitments thats time together is often infrequent and sadly I have noticed in recent times even emailing is becoming redundant outside of business needs. We are texting, using messenger, instagram and facebook to communicate. There are only so many words you can use in a text and as our fingers are not as nimble as those younger than us it is not always an easy task. I will admit face-time and zoom meetups are a quiet blessing if you can master the technological problems that come with them.

I wish I had an answer to this accelerating situation in todays’ modern world but unfortunately it eludes me.

Crackenback Snowy Mountains NSW

Today we started on our way to experience the snowy mountains in summer.  Ken bought me a short stay of four nights in Crackenback Resort for Xmas. It has been raining continuously here at home so we have made sure we packed some wet weather gear and lots to do if we have to stay indoors. The drive which is around 5-6 hrs depending on stops can be mostly highway or like us you can go via Mulgoa road, through Narellan and then onto the main highway toward Canberra. This way you see a few smaller towns and the major development happening at Badgery Creek airport. Highways of course are quicker but can be boring. We were lucky as the sun shone the whole way. Actually the most sun we have seen in quite some time. We stopped off to photograph Lake George because there was water. A rare event I do not remember seeing in my lifetime. It is interesting to see the fence posts poking out just a couple of inches from the waterline. Certainly changes the outlook from the road.  A quick lunch and grocery pickup and we were on our way again. We arrived at the resort and of course as we alighted to take a couple of photos within the grounds of the resort, the rain saw us coming and graced us with its presence once again. Just lightly, but enough to make us scurry back to the car. Driving on a little way we looked for our accommodation nestled at the foothills of the mountain in walking distance to Lake Crackenback. After spending 15 minutes trying to find the key we eventually located the front door. The place was small but perfectly clean, modern, and with every amenity on board. We unpacked and tried to venture down to the lake when the rain decided to visit once again. Back indoors, a glass of wine and some dinner as we watched the clouds and mist settle around the lower part of the mountains making a stunning backdrop. The rain cleared and the cool crisp air was very pleasant. We encountered some very large Pied Currawong’s, a couple of Kangaroos including a Joey and some beautiful Fallow Dear wandering the base of the hills just behind the unit. Movie and an early night are on the agenda before a big day tomorrow. 

Day 2- Roughly 28 years ago we took our six-year-old daughter to the Snowy Mountains and proudly completed the walk to the summit of Mt Kosciusko. What possessed us today to it again I will never know. What we knew but did not realise would add to our kilometres travelled by foot, was that the mountain bike festival/racing was being held in Thredbo and every parking place was taken quite early in the day. Never mind we opted for a car park quite some distance from the chairlift. No shuttles running, not a worry when you are starting out the day. We walked a good kilometre to the chairlift and bought our tickets. Jumped on the open chairlift and away we went. Straight up for 15 minutes with views everywhere. The rain decided to stay at home today so we were afforded some lovely sights. Once alighting from the lift we prepared ourselves for the walk, telling ourselves we can turn around at any time. The first kilometre and a half are pretty steep, so very taxing at the beginning. Having done it before we were able to stay motivated as we remembered the walkway levelled out further afar. Well, we found out that was not exactly the correct recollection. We heard a guide say to another senior couple, “Congratulations, the hard part is done. It is quite undulating and not so difficult for the next few kilometres.” Spoken like a true hiker, who only recognises hard. We continued and my feet started to burn a little. Undulating yes but there is still a lot of uphills to contend with, and did we mention the wind? The boardwalk makes it a little easier but when you look ahead and see nothing but mountains and a small red boardwalk winding around, up and down and seemingly into the unknown, it is very daunting. The positive is, on the entire walk you are surrounded by mountainous hillsides, varying wild flowers in many colours, boulders of every shape and size and babbling brooks meandering under bridges and throughout the hills. You pass by the highest lake in Australia before you reach the highest point in Australia. When the sun shines at the right angle the blue of the water in the lake sparkles against the few patches of white snow spotted here and there. Eventually after a lot, and I mean a lot of self-talk, pauses and groans you will reach Rawsons Point. You would have covered many steps, with pretty strong winds and the sun beating on your forehead. Here a longer rest was needed mainly to psych oneself into continuing on. The sign says 45 mins to the peak( 1.5 kilometres) That sounds easy but is it? The quick answer, not when you are 70 plus. It is an uneven gravel road winding up and around many bends and as you approach each one you are convinced the top is around the next turn only to be confronted with another stretch of gravel. My feet burned, my chest was tight, my legs were objecting severely but my head kept saying you cannot turn back now. I gave in and listened to my head and now I am very glad I did. There is a massive sense of achievement when you round the bend for the last time and see the cairn, which marks the peak, staring back at you. You did it, you beat the challenge and all that was left was to sit and ponder and enjoy the crisp air that is the summit. The hard part is done or so I thought. We took a little time and ate our sandwich, some chocolate and rehydrated. We relaxed for a bit and took the token photo of ourselves standing next to the cairn. Admittedly the views from the top are certainly not stunning if you choose to compare them with other spectacular mountains of the world, however, the vastness of what is The Snowy Mountains, the history of Strzelecki’s work followed by many other explorers braving the elements and the personal achievement of getting there is without argument very rewarding. You can see it and hear it emitting from those who are there waiting their turn to take that one photo. The picture captures each persons face of self-satisfaction.

The last Chairlift down leaves at 4.30pm meaning, if you miss it a further 550 metres of walking almost vertically downhill would be required to get down the mountain. With this in mind, we started our return journey down the mountain thinking to ourselves that it should be a breeze, as it was mainly downhill with a few ups and downs in the middle. I am laughing to myself as I write this. When one uses muscles that have been dormant for some time, forcing them to walk uphill for a lengthy period of time, I believe they must be supported by many parts of the body supported by the mind motivation that helps you along. When you reverse that process and try to use another set of muscles to go down you will discover the result is quite a painful reaction. The kilometre back to Rawson’s pass is straight down on that same gravel road. My sock on one foot was creating friction on my little toe, my hip and thigh muscles complaining immensely and my body tensing from keeping oneself from giving in and slipping the whole way down. This turned out to be quite a frightening and challenging experience. Ken was not much better with his hips objecting loudly. All we could think of was how in hell were we going to get back the 6.5 kilometres to the chairlift and do it by 4.30. What we thought was going to be quick was now looming as impossible. Finally, we reached the last bend where the Rawsons’ pass could be seen.  Our first sigh of relief. The adjacent toilet block allowed a short stay, repositioning of my shoes and socks and a welcome easing of the tension and pain. The muscles were feeling manageable so we decided if we could just keep a steady pace the rest of the way we should be ok. Time was ticking so off we went, we were overtaken by many which were pretty disheartening but we soldiered on. There was still a lot of downhill sections of course which were gruelling but the many flatter sections allow the body to recoup each time. At last, we saw the workmen who were relaying some of the boardwalk. We knew once we got up this hill we only had 1.5 kilometres to go. Checking the watch we also knew we were under pressure. That little hill climb was very taxing and took up valuable time. We reached the top and saw the next downhill section and not far into that section we were very relieved to see the roof of the chairlift building. Motivation increased and a fine sprinkle of rain was with us now so we found ourselves at the pace of a near jog all the way down this next section ( jogging seemed to be easier on the muscles than dragging the body along at a slow pace). Not quite believing it ourselves we made it with 10 minutes to spare. Jumped (on reflection I would say, heaved would be more accurate) on that chairlift and let our bodies relax enough to enjoy the feeling of the cool rain on our aching limbs. Watching all the bike riders weaving in and around the many tracks, some tricky, some muddy, they made it look easy. It is quite fascinating to see young children to seasoned veterans, many in the bright team colours, doing exactly what they love.

Alighting with a heavy thud and our legs frozen from the short spell of inaction we had to stop for a few minutes to enable the blood to flow once again. All that was left was the kilometre walk back to the car. OMG, the last straw. We started and I think I made it 2/3rds of the way until Ken pointed out how long to go. There was no more fuel in my tank. I stopped and could not continue. Poor Ken had to go get the car and come back for me. After a short wait the car pulled up, Ken looked at me and said are you able to manage as I cannot get out to help. I laughed, struggled to move but got the backpacks in the car and flopped onto the seat with absolute exhaustion. We drove back to our accommodation in silence, showered and had a cup of tea. Surprisingly we were ready to hit the road to find the wine and the steak our body was yelling for. Afterwards feeling refreshed and accomplished we happily returned home to sleep.

Day 3. We woke this morning with a little pain which was quite surprising. Both of us expected to be immobile. We thought we would be flat on our back for the whole day.  After taking our time over breakfast we decided to test the limbs and do the walk around our resort while the weather was good.  We started off and not very far onto the walk, Ken stopped abruptly as a snake crossed his path heading away from him. We later investigated to find out it was a Highland Copperhead. We were able to watch it slithering along heading to the river edge. It was a shiny black with distinct yellow markings along the underside. Quite beautiful to watch. We ventured on to see a very young duckling sitting together with his sibling on the edge of the lake. After only a short time one ventured into the water leaving one little fluffy body seated alone. We watched for a few minutes and after what appeared to be much trepidation he faltered and eventually hit the water. Once in, there was no catching him. It was only a short time before he caught up with mum and the sibling and continued on safely. Moving on watching the ducks, of which there were many and all very active we crossed a small footbridge heading to the start of the walk that had ironwork sculptures dotted along the track. The grounds are kept clean and neatly laid out but still allowing them to look quite natural. The facilities in the park areas are extensive for all ages, walking tracks, bike tracks, fitness tracks, children’s trampolines, canoes and kayaks, archery, a cafe, a restaurant, and of course the gift and ski shop. The resort boasts an indoor pool and spa and gym so there is little to complain about. We finished the lake circuit taking in all the unique iron sculptures and headed back to our unit. We decided to drive into Jindabyne to obtain our national park pass, have lunch and take a slow wander around the lake. Lunch was fine and the pass was secured, however, our body was now telling us enough is enough. We were both now feeling the effects of yesterday. A quick decision to take a drive to Perisher and Charlotte Pass instead. It is such a pretty drive with many sweeping views of the surrounding vegetation and waterways.  We got to the end of the road and what faced us was a short 15-minute boardwalk. Should we, should we not. Of course we did and found ourselves among some beauitful ancient snow gums. It was a superb and simple walk but of course at the end, a looming staircase.  Once again you cannot leave without reaching the top. So up we go and again not disappointed. The hills and mountain ranges reached far and wide. Heading back we concentrated on the snow gums which were hundreds of years old. Over the many years of existence, the wind had moulded and twisted them into remarkable shapes. A small area but some fantastic specimens all together to be marvelled at. Walking back to the car we were quickly convinced that a horizontal position at home was needed quickly. Some recovery time was vital. After a few hours rest, we headed off to the resort cafe for a beer and pizza.  I decided I could manage the little walk home so took myself off while Ken took the car home. The wind had dropped and the air was clean and nice. I encountered many birds and three kangaroos who appeared to object to me being in their space regardless of the fact it was a human walking track they were grazing on. I moved aside and skirted around them. I am sure they were wondering why I was in their space. Looking at me with a look of bother in their eyes. Quickly hurrying on as the sky was darkening with nightfall, just a few metres from our accommodation a large mass moved suddenly in front of me. Before I could get the camera activated it scurried to the right and down the hill. A large wombat I believe heading to the hole in the gully we had seen earlier in the day. A nice way to end the walk. Another glass of wine and an early night to rest this very tired but satisfied body. 

Day 4 – It is the last day of our stay at Crackenback and we discussed last night that we would take it easy and just lounge around all day. Well, that was the plan and you know what they say. We started out slow and then Ken came across a waterfall walk which looked pretty flat and easy. We decided why not, let’s do it. Our legs had restored and we just did not want to waste a day. We donned our walking gear and drove up toward Perisher Valley, parked the car and started off. We knew it was a 6-kilometre return easy walk with few stairs. We had no time limit so we went slow. The walk was a pretty, natural bush track surrounded by unbelievably tall snow gums. Straight up with fantastic colours and craggy trunks. The water droplets from the mist hung on the leaves making the bush sparkle. The many spider webs twinkling in the sun. Not far in we see a medium-sized kangaroo sitting on the walking track. He raised his ears, looked at us intently for several minutes and then quickly moved a few metres into the bush. We followed his eyes and noticed him still watching as we passed by.  A little further along a joey was watching inquisitively and not far behind, his mum was guarding quietly. No matter how many times I see them in the wild, I find them intriguing. Maybe it is something to do with my feet bungling through the bush and watching their boundless leaps which seem effortless.  

There were many tiny bush flowers and many snow gums to take our eye along the way. After nearly 3 kilometres and a few muddy spots to manoeuvre we came across the waterfall. It was quite pretty and flowing freely. Worth the effort and my legs were feeling ok. We were both however a little tired and Ken’s face was showing the grief of his unyielding hip pain. The track headed up a little which was a bit gruelling but nothing we could not handle. We located a large fallen tree trunk to sit and rest our bones and enjoy our rissole sandwiches and fruit with a little chocolate for energy. Once rested we took off again. There were a few mutters along the way as we did seem to be climbing quite a bit. So much so that we questioned ourselves as to whether we had missed a turn and were on the wrong track. Ken found a faint signal on the mobile and located our whereabouts to determine if we were going in the right direction. There was no sun at this point to guide us so we took note, tramped along for about what we thought was a kilometre and checked the map. We were a little relieved as it looked like we were making progress in the right direction. Turning a bend we saw a plethoria of magnificent boulders on the side of the track. It is a little strange when you are walking among bush and trees and suddenly from the ground, massive rock structures impede your way. Like giants forbidding you to go further. They stand immovable, imposing and intriguing. Children would relish the challenge of mastering these natural monsters. The track wound on but it was starting to feel like we were heading down now. A couple more kilometres and we reached the bottom without incident.  By now my legs were feeling the strain and Ken was certainly battling the pain. Back to our car and a quick drive to Jindabyne for some much needed Tiger Balm ointment and even better a beer and a glass of wine. Some takeaway Chinese food for dinner and home to settle in for the night. A pat on the back for both of us for making the effort. It is interesting as Ken and I have been doing this type of walk and adventure throughout all of our married life. I constantly say it is not my thing but I go with him trekking through the bush many times and I always finish up feeling accomplished and satisfied. Why I complain, I have no idea, a habit I guess. If you asked me what I like, I would say sitting on the rocks at the beach, watching and listening to the waves tumbling, or sitting with friends in a cafe with non-stop conversation, both of which are just a tad different to bushwalking. I guess I just like doing something.

Day 5-We have to head back home today, our short stay in the Snowy Mountains finished. We had breakfast, packed our bags, removed the rubbish and we were on the road again. We stopped briefly at Jindabyne to photograph a memorial and the many seagulls lining the shore of the lake. We had intended to do a small walk but our physical bodies were not agreeing. We headed off to Cooma to visit the graveyard. I have been doing some ancestry investigations on our families and I know both my mother’s parents lived in Cooma and surrounding areas at some point. It is a very laborious task researching birth certificates etc and trying to substantiate the connections. I wanted to see if there was an old section in the cemetery where I might find some relatives. I managed to find one very old grave of the wife of my Great Great Grandfather who died in November 1902 at just 40yrs old. I will now have to connect it to a death certificate so I can be sure.  Pretty happy I was able to find anything at all.  We drove onto Queanbeyan for lunch which was pretty ordinary.  Ready now to return to our haven at Hazelbrook. Overall a really great five days which we vowed we will do a similar trip again while we are still able. I have also added a few photos of the animals roaming free at the resort at Crackenback. Would definitely recommend this place for everyone.

Hope you have enjoyed following us around and will come back and visit again soon. Please feel free to comment and follow my blog for further travel and life experiences. Enjoy your day.

50th Wedding Anniversary Holiday

23rd November 2018, 50 years to the day we married at the Sydney Registry office NSW.  During this time, we had experienced trips to New Zealand, Hong Kong, North and Sth America and different states of Australia. We have enjoyed all of our trips.New Zealand was a particular favourite of ours as it is a short plane ride, inexpensive with very beautiful countryside and friendly accommodating people. 

As a complete surprise to me Ken decided our next trip to NZ would be to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in my style of holiday. Normally I organise everything with discussions with him about modes of transport and particular interests. Our normal way of seeing a country is to move daily from town to town visiting the vast array of scenery and specific highlights on offer for the region. During our travels we cover a lot of ground on the premise that we may not get back to the place again and therefore want to see as much as we can. I have found myself on occasions expressing a desire to stay put for a few days and visit more of the city. I was about to get my wish. On this occasion, Ken organised everything, unbeknown to me. This is a  massive undertaking  for him as he is not used to the whole process. He booked the flights, organised an air B&B, planned and booked tickets for our excursions. It was very organised, and I did not have to lift a finger. I had no idea where I was going until we had to check in at the airport.  As it was, he had to reveal to me that  we were flying somewhere as he had encountered a small problem when booking the airfare. Apparently, he had been doing really well with the plans until he had to produce the passports.  He scrounged everywhere not knowing where I had stored them, luckily came across them and proceeded to enter the details. To his horror he discovered that my passport had expired. With great disappointment he had to tell me what was happening, with the hope that I could renew my passport quickly to avoid cancelling the whole idea.

He was so disappointed in having to tell me this and as happy as I was to find out about this surprise event, I was more concerned about what he was saying as I was positive my passport was in order.  As the story unfolds’ we discovered he indeed had my passport, but it was an old one which had most definitely expired. What he did not know was that weeks earlier I had needed my passport to prove identity for something and had my current passport in my handbag.  It was well and truly up to date and the catastrophe was averted.  I know knew something but not everything, part of his surprise was still in a secret.

We headed off on the train to the airport when I finally discovered our destination as we checked in for the flight. Once seated he handed me the itinerary all neatly presented in a folder. I was so surprised and felt very special that he had managed to do this and keep it a secret. We could have been going to the next town and I would have been happy. The surprise was the doing.

So we arrived in Christchurch airport very late 12.30 am, picked up a hire car and headed to the city. Our accommodation was at the Heritage Hotel, Cathedral Square in the middle of downtown Christchurch. It is a grand and opulent building designed by Joseph Clark Maddison in 1909.  It is a restored Italia High Renaissance palazzo style building. Originally designed to centralise various government departments. It opened in 1913 and housed those government departments until 1980. The building sat idle and was in threat of being demolished when it was purchased and resold in 1995 at which time it was converted into a hotel. It is now made up of fully self-contained apartments. Our particular air B&B was immaculately clean, modern but still with the heritage air about it. Luxuriously comfortable for our weeks stay.  We had the next seven days to leisurely make our way around the city taking our time seeing the sites.

Walking around the city you are faced with both destruction and beauty. The massive effort from the locals to restore their city is very noticeable, as is the love exhibited in the beauty of the memorial wall built for those who lost their lives to the earthquake of 2011. Not only is Christchurch a wealth of heritage buildings and beautiful churches it is also a modern town with modern structures, plenty of eating and entertainment areas and at the same time it is quiet and peaceful wandering the streets.

The following day we visited the Botanical Gardens and the Mona Vale Gardens. Both of these gardens are in the city and very accessible. The Mona Vale Gardens show many flower varieties in full bloom and in plentiful supply. The grounds are in exemplary condition with a river running through the centre and a glorious house open to the public. After spending a couple of hours, wandering and photographing we headed back into the city to check out the Botanical Gardens. Equally as impressive. The grounds are extensive, with lots of grand old trees and the River Avon running through the centre. There is a stunning conservatory with a very intense display of a variety of flowers and plants and some very interesting Cacti. We had lunch in the gardens and wandered back to rest a little before our planned anniversary dinner that night. My legs and feet had survived a massive walking day and were looking forward to a relaxing evening.

It is the night of our anniversary and a special dinner has been organised by Ken. I did not know where the venue was so got ready assuming it would be an upmarket restaurant. I was told we would be picked up from inside the Mall at Cathedral Junction to be taken to our destination. To my surprise an elegant looking tram arrived and our name was called to join the other passengers. What a lovely treat. The tram had been converted to a fine dining restaurant which weaved its way in and around the city of Christchurch while serving a beautiful three course meal and matching wine. The service was impeccable and the food delectable. It is amazing how much of the city you are able to see without using ones legs. A happy relief on my part. We were not hurried and when we finished the tour we wandered across the road for a nightcap at the bar attached to our hotel before retiring to the luxury of our accommodation. It was a beautiful day and night.

It is day four, a Saturday and time to venture outside of the the CBD. We are heading to Akaroa to experience the only French settlement in NZ. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Christchurch . Akaroa is a small sleepy little village on the Banks Peninsula, a town deep in Maori  and settler history. It is such a pretty place made up of holiday places, cafes, gift shops  and the main wharf area. While we waited for our boat to arrive we sat with coffee on the boardwalk watching the cute little seagulls searching for handouts. They are totally different in their habits than the seagulls you will find on the coast of Australia. They have a distinct red beak and red feet. They seem to create their own little territory so that if another mate comes near their source of food they chase them away. Quite cute to watch. The boat arrives to start our two and half journey around the waters of the Banks Peninsula. It was overcast and quite cool but even though a little disappointing that the sun had not joined us we were rugged up and ready to go. The water is calm, the surroundings are magical and once we were underway and out of the bay area we were escorted by a couple of playful dolphins. Always a joy to watch. The next thing that caught my eye was the brilliance of the water with bright turquoise and green tones  lapping against the rocks. There are several water falls cascading down the green hillsides surrounding us. A little further on we approached an inlet where the boat sat quiet so we could watch the many seals sunbathing in various precarious positions on the rock ledges. They were surrounded by several different species of birds. Our guide was informative and as we were part of a small group we were able to see and experience everything close hand. We both enjoyed ourselves immensely. On our return we wandered through the village checking out the many souvenirs on offer and settling down at one of the cafes for lunch.  Before heading back to Christchurch we visited the Lighthouse and the Garden of Tane.

Sunday arrived and we were tired but relaxed. Time to use our very relaxed limbs and have a bit of a stroll through the alpine mountain pass called Arthurs Pass. A haven for walkers and skiers. We headed off early to the visitors centre. It is about a two hour drive from Christchurch. We had travelled across the magnificent Otira Gorge in a camper-van many years ago and more recently in the Tranz-alpine Train. It is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps.The views were to say the least stunning on both occasions and we would both recommend the trip to everyone. I am sure I will be mentioning it in a future travel blog. For now, on this day we travelled by car with the intent of walking one of the many tracks near the village centre. Initially passing the village we headed up to the Otira Viaduct lookout which gives a great view of an ingenious piece of engineering involving bridges, viaducts, rock shelters and guided waterfalls. Photo’s do not do it justice. If you are lucky you will see a beautiful bird called the Kea known as the naughty alpine Parrot. There are many videos on the internet showing its level intelligence and its playful habits. We were thrilled to have one walk by very close to us. Certainly he was not afraid of us.

We then headed back to the visitors centre. Once there you have the option of several walks. We chose the Devils Punchbowl walking track which starts at the northern end of the village. It is only 2km return trip with easy walking. You will cross the river by footbridge and then wander for a while passing many Beech trees, listening to the chatter of the many birds. You then come across a fairly steep set of stairs heading upwards for around 150 meters. At the top you reach a platform to view the falls in all their glory. Absolutely stunning and very accessible. We took our time climbing around the waterfall, photographing and enjoying it’s many aspects and then wandered back slowly. The weather was not great for walking or photography so we decided to take our time looking at the surrounding area, namely the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. We chose not to walk through the cave due to the rain. Hopefully we will get to do this another trip. As the road follows the Waimakariri river back down to the golden tussock covered lands at the foothills you will come across Castle HIll. Take the time to stop and wander across to look closer at the massive array of boulders dotting the landscape. Surrounded by hills and mountains it is quite a majestic scene. We stopped at a roadside hotel for lunch and then headed back to Christchurch to wander a little more through the shops of Christchurch. Ending the night at an Irish pub called The Bog which had a great atmosphere led by a very lively Irish band.

The second last day of our trip we took a drive to Lake Tekapo, Good Shephard Church and Mount Johns observatory (The token Observatory visit ). Lake Tekapo’s bright blue waters set against the contrasting green lands with snow topped mountains rising in the background is a very relaxing scene. We have had the pleasure of witnessing it when the sun was shining brightly helping to capture its natural beauty. Today was overcast and certainly not as beautiful but we were blessed with a stillness in the air. A place to sit and ponder ones thoughts in peace with only the occasional bleating of the sheep to break the silence.

A short visit to the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory. Situated 1029 meters and overlooks Lake Tekapo. The clear skies and low levels of local light pollution have helped put the observatory on the international map with observations and discoveries of the southern sky. The dome houses a 1.8 prime focus reflector being the largest telescope in New Zealand. Visiting during daylight presents you with a great view of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding farmlands. An iconic landmark at Lake Tekapl is the Church of the Good Shephard. Easily found sitting on the foreshore flanked by glorious pink, purple, yellow and white lupins. These are an introduced flora species to New Zealand and considered invasive. Having said that they are also a very attractive tourist asset. Being there at the end of November was just at the start of the season. They were sparser then we have seen before but together with the yellow gold of the tussocks spotted throughout it was a beautiful scene. The Church itself was built in 1935 with the instruction that the site was to be left undisturbed. Close by is a bronze sheepdog statue, erected in 1968 being a tribute to the sheepdogs used in developing the farmlands in the Mackenzie region. Heading back along the state highway 79 we stopped for a coffee at a tiny place called Three Creeks. You will see from the photos a sign on the store says “Lost in the 50’s ” So true and so quaint. Many hours could be lost just rummaging through the amazing piles of stuff. Well worth stopping. The road takes us now through the continuing beauty that is the South Island. We detoured a little to drive via Mt Hutt. The town is nestled in a small valley surrounded by mountains. A very popular ski area and a thoroughly serene and picturesque place to drive through in the summer months. Then a pleasant drive through the outer suburbs of Christchurch and a wander around the city before settling down for dinner and a glass of wine to end the day.

The last day but definitely not the least. We started off early heading up the east coast to the Kaikouri Peninsula. Again another easy beautiful 180 km drive through the green hills, farmland and then hugging the coastline watching the waves crash on the rocks.

The roadworks nearer to Kaikouri were intense due to much damage from the earthqake. It was not a bother and actually pleasing to see the improvements under way. Arriving in the small seaside town we parked and headed to where the seals were lounging around claiming the rocks as home. One old fellow who was very large had claimed his spot under the seat on the side of the road totally oblivious to the humans nearby. Those who had taken up residence on the rocks closer to the shore would let you know when you were too close by emitting a low guttural roar. Scary enough to make one take heed and move on. The birds are in abundance and great to watch as they soar through the sky, swim in the ocean or waddle across the rocks. We decided to take a walk up to the point where the Ocean meets the Forest. A taxing walk uphill but paved, making it a little easier. Worth the trip as it is quite exhilarating at the top where the view of the mountains, the birdlife and the surrounding bushland blend together naturally. Really glad I made the effort. It was drizzling rain some of the way but it added to the experience. We made sure we headed over to the town for some fish and chips. After eating and wandering around the shops and the shoreline we made our way to our next destination, Hanmer Springs. This part of our trip was a total surprise to me. Going to a spa is something I have done before but only in a closed-in resort style spa and sauna. This was an outdoor spa which Ken had investigated and had on the itinerary. It was not something we would normally do. So the town on Hanmer springs is all about relaxation. There is accommodation, many outdoor activities, food, alcohol and thermal pools. We headed to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools right in the centre of the town. Changed into our costumes and ventured into the first spa. It was raining lightly and just 10 degrees, so we agreed if not comfortable we would not stay long. Several hours later after trying out the many pools available we had to drag ourselves away. The pools were all different heat levels and had different specialties. Some were very hot with no activity needed, others not as warm but with jets hitting you on various parts of the body, bringing alive muscles which had been asleep for some time. Each pool had its own appeal. It was so relaxing, so indulgent and very invigorating.The light rain added to the experience. It is something that will now be added to our future trips whenever possible. It was time to leave and head back to our temporary home for one more night. The drive back mid to late afternoon took us through the Balmoral Forest and across the Jurunui River. Passing farms, rich with crops, vineyards and olive groves which the Waipara region is known for and the continuous rolling green hills of the South Island. The last part of the journey returns to the beaches of Amberley, Waikuku and Woodend. Such a beautiful day to end our time in the South Island. We finished the night with a lovely dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant. Packed up for an early flight the next day. It will be a holiday I think we will both remember for a long time and my wonderful hubby deserves more than full marks for his effort.

An unexpected gift.

For Christmas this year I received a set of inspirational and questioning journals from my youngest daughter. She knows I like to write and thought this would help with some ideas for my blog.

To be completely honest, I was not sure at the time she was right. It is not something I would ever have considered buying for myself. I am not someone who reads inspirational quotes or positive thoughts for the day, however I do find human behaviour fascinating and I expect looking at ones own behaviour is a good place to start. Trying to keep an open mind I started to explore the journals. I was pleasantly surprised and quite amazed at some of the questions posed. Questions that I had pondered in the past but not spent time investigating. One question that was asked implored me to think and explore my thoughts.

What do you want most in life?

The burning question that keeps the world turning. The question we ask ourselves continuously throughout our lives. The question we at times spend way too long pondering and then other times we push it aside for another day as it is too hard to answer.

Now getting close to 70 I can reflect on this and answer it fairly easily. Not with-standing  world issues, which I would hope applies to most people, to eliminate poverty, eradicate violence, protect all children, accept all beings for who they are and discover amazing things. We want to have a sustainable world in which to live and in an ideal world we would have peace. Who does not want this?

I believe to answer this question as an individual the answer is dependent on time and conditions within our lives. What I want most now differs to what I wanted in years gone by.  I only speak for myself here.

Overall – Late teen years I wanted freedom, independence, and excitement – personal level – I wanted  love and laughter in my life.

Overall – In my 20’s I wanted stability after a childhood of instability. Regular income, loving family  and good friends- personal level– I wanted my marriage to be strong and I wanted children.

Overall – In my 30’s I wanted to purchase our own home and I wanted safety, stability and a good future for my children – personal level – I wanted to be a good, honest, and approachable mother.  I wanted to improve my education and improve my ability to earn a higher income.

Overall – In my 40’s I wanted financial security and more time for fun and relaxation. Time  and money for Travel. Success for my children both in education and career – personal level – I wanted to be liked and valued by my family.

Overall – In my 50’s I wished for improved health services. I  wanted  longevity in our business – personal level. I wanted to fix my children and husband who were all struggling with ill health.

Overall – In my 60’s  I wanted Good Health, financial security, more foreseeable possibility of retirement – personal level . I wanted our life to slow down and to be easier.

Overall – Now approaching my 70’th year- I want people to learn from the experience of a pandemic. I want people to stop blaming the government for every shortcoming in their life and to take responsibility for their own actions. ( a sweeping statement, I know, a discussion for another blog). On a very personal level I just want to live long enough to be able to enjoy my retirement with my husband, I want good health for myself and my family members and my friends.  I want laughter, excitement, I want to be able to try new things, travel to new places and experience life in general.  

On Reflection

On an introspective level, I would like to stop bitching and complaining about people and situations at hand. I have noticed as I grow older, I have less tolerance and I am more bitter and less compassionate in my thoughts. I am guessing this is just a tiredness we get after a lifetime of pushing our own agenda’s, trying  always to be right or knowledgeable or simply trying to be noticed.  It is not a good look and not a productive way to live.  It is something I need to work on.

“If everything went the way we wanted, soon we would no longer have anything to write about, nothing to quide our daily thoughts.”

Paulo Coelho’s Blog

Birds out my window today.

I am sitting watching out the window as I write my blog. The day is dawning and the birds are waking. I like and respect animals but am not what you would call a passionate animal lover. I have had my fair share of cats and dogs, experienced owning white mice, and cute little rabbits, gone through the silkworm process and visited many zoos and animal parks.

Since retiring to the Blue Mountains I have noticed birds. I have always scoffed a little at birdwatchers wondering how they could be interested in something that just flits from tree to tree. I realise now how my ignorance hid from me the complexity and the beauty of these creatures.

A white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flies past the window with his wide spread wings holding him afloat. He parks on a tree and calls his friends to join him. If I call to him with my cocky voice his yellow crown immediately stands high as he turns to stare and then squawks as if to say “you are interrupting, wait your turn.” His majestic all powerful stance glorious against the natural colours of the trees.

Meanwhile I notice our resident Kookaburra and his baby search diligently for worms deep under the green lawn which sparkles from the tiny drops of water from the early morning dew. The mother working tirelessly to stifle the continuous cry of her reliant baby.

I look to my left to the Red Wattle Bird foraging for nector in buds of the grevillia plants. His familiar gutteral chortle filling the air. He is a very territorial bird and fights daily with the other birdlife to retain his home. A few months ago a he was followed relentlessly by his new baby. Today the baby is not seen as I guess he is now making his own way among the blooms of the many small bushes surrounding him.

I know from seeing this all unfold each day that the stunning red, yellow and blue colours of the Rosella’s just behind the house are scattered in the many trees waiting to descend to our balcony with their own distinct sound. They will sit along the rail whistling their melodic tunes with the hope of a handful of seed to enhance their diets.

Not far behind them will be the more graceful and brilliantly coloured Red and Green King Parrots. They are more patient than the others and will come close and look at you when they speak. Cautious at first but then demanding in their request for attention.

Further down the yard I see the distinct black and white of the Magpies foraging among the leaves and debris surrounding the bush. Religiously following the lawn mower gathering the worms as they come to the surface. The Magpie family comes and goes each season. They know our faces and respond immediately to my whistle. Swooping in from nowhere they glide in close knowing there is a handout not far away. It is interesting to watch when they have new babies. They collect the food in their mouth adding to the pile until it is bulging from their beak. It is then time to fly away to the nest where the squawking babies are waiting for them. They overload and quickly return for another round.

Last but certainly not least are my favourites when it comes to feeding. The little Butcher Birds are very cute, quick and silent. They fly high into the trees and sit patiently watching and waiting. When the coast is clear they very smoothly swoop and scoop the tiny morsel of food left for them. They are in and out before you notice.

Some others worth mentioning but not in view this morning are the Lorikeets, Brown Dove, Bower Bird, Plovers , Black Cockatoo and a Tawny Frogmouth. Not viewed but definitley heard is The Big Owl.

I spend much time just watching the birds as they wake, play and rest each day. Time spent watching them strip the bark off the trees or building their nests. Noticing how they go from bush to bush searching for nectar, chasing each other flying in and out of the many branches. At dusk you can see them gliding across the skies rich from the colours of the sunsets looking for a place to settle during the dark hours.

Complacency-Boredom

As a retired person I have more available time, as an older person living during the pandemic I have more idle hours to fill. Following I have written my thoughts on this situation. No expertise, no qualifications just what is in my head. 🤔

I refer back to an early blog “What will I do when I retire?” I wrote that blog with my own actions in mind and focused mainly on activities that I related to at the time. Covid has made me think more earnestly about what we do on a daily basis and how easily boredom can slip into our life and have a detrimental affect on some people. It is easy to become bored, it is easy to become complacent about your daily activities. Dictionary.com’s meaning of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition etc.” I think this explains it very clearly but breaking it down a little and putting it into terms of actual life activities helped me to clarify.🤓

The first part is easy for me to identify, particularly during covid restrictions. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, doing my heritage investigations, reading a book or simply going for a walk.These activities were pleasureable and gave me the security of knowing I was safe in my own home.They quickly became my norm and were only broken by the necessity of housework or shopping on line. 🙂

The second part of the dictionary meaning is a little unnerving at first. I questioned what potential danger could these activities evoke. The answer came with endured lengths of time of repetitively doing the same activities every day. The danger lies in the complacency of ones own thoughts and actions. When you are in a pattern without too much change it becomes easy to be habitual. Our life becomes boring. We could easily become disinterested in our surroundings which leads to more debilitating effects to our well being. As you become more bored your life becomes less active and your brain less stimulated. You talk less, you laugh less and more and more creativity and interests die. It becomes easy to not make an effort, to not make plans, to not look forward. If we do not change our routines, explore new avenues, take risks and try new things our brains become less stimulated and more vulnerable to negative thoughts. Of course there is nothing wrong with boredom, it is a normal emotion and it is not harmful unless of course it becomes excessive and interferes with ones normal daily life and this where the danger lives. 😦

I do suspect if you have an interesting hobby you possibly will not have this problem, but if you find yourself increasingly idle try something new. If you do not have any specific interest maybe look back at what you liked doing as a young person and see how that fits into your retired lifestyle. This would not have worked for me as I worked from a very young age and did not really develop any specific hobbies other than being involved in some sports. As I age those particular sports are not appropriate. I do however like long easy walks and on line music exercise classes so I am trying to become more consistent with that. I have listing here some suggestions(not mind boggling) just simple actions to minimise boredom or complacency and things that activate our brains. 😀

  • Cooking-reinvent the way you cook, try new foods. If you have no one at home to cook for bake a cake or make some cookies for your neighbour or elderly friend and invite them over for a cuppa. (covid permitted) Make some fun cookies for the neighbourhood children.
  • Craft-Learn a new skill or two. There are many tutorials on line. knitting, crocheting, origami, macrame, scrapbooking, sculpting, ceramics, painting etc the list is endless.
  • Sorting– photos, memorabilia, kitchen cupboards, clothing, garage, sheds, music collections We all need to declutter and sort. Do it slowly so it is enjoyable not a chore.
  • Photographing– I became bored while taking my daily walk, so I decided to photograph specific things. I chose a colour and with my trusty smart phone I walked and searched for that colour. You would be amazed at what you see. Each day I changed the colour or the theme and my walks became interesting again. I posted my photo’s on facebook which resulted in interaction with friends. Use your smart phone or camera and photograph whatever you like, your home, the streets surrounding you, fungi, trees, flowers, pictures, food, shapes use your imagination.
  • Writing-this is what I chose and the subjects are endless. I chose to put my thoughts on line but you do not have to. Start a journal, each day write down what you are thinking. It is habit forming however not boring as the subject matter changes everyday when you are forced to think of something to put down on paper. Nobody is reading it unless you want them to so write whatever crap comes to mind. Reading it back is often fun and thought provoking.
  • Planning-even though covid has momentarily changed our freedom we can still plan for the future. go online and plan the trip of a lifetime, you may never do it but it does not hurt to dream and its fun to map it out, and at the same time you are finding lots of information about other countries.
  • Games-mind games, computer games, board games, card games or do puzzles. There are many both on line and probably some gathering dust in your cupboards. They keep your mind active and if you have someone to play with all the better. If not challenge yourself to better your skills or beat your own score.
  • Meet new people-Join a book club, a walking group, a community centre or simply say hi to your neighbours or local shopkeepers. Go to a bingo group or a dance class or join a bowls club. A few words to a stranger can make your day. Some of these things are difficult during covid restrictions however if you are reading this you have access to on line so be brave start a social media page and finds some new friends. There are many senior groups filled with people just like yourself. It could be just 5 minutes a day and it could change your life.
  • Pampering-this is something we forget to do, whether male or female we all deserve to spoil ourselves. The obvious is a long luxurious bath, a hot chocolate and a good book, a home facial, a cup of tea while sitting on the verandah listening to your favourite music, relax with a heat-pack on those aching bones, watch a movie or better still watch a comedy routine, paint your nails, watch the footy.
  • Mens/Womens sheds– of course we are talking post covid but definitely something for those who have worked hard all of their lives and not had time to develop a hobby. From what I have heard and read they give people a purpose and are a great way to meet new friends. Research on line as they are popping up in many places.
  • Yoga,Meditation,Pilates,Exercise.- Whether male or female there a on line classes for everyone. No effort as you are in your own home, nobody to see you, no cost just simple movement which is the most important thing our ageing bodies need.
  • Hydo-Water activities– another post coved activity. Local pools have lots of classes for seniors with special classes or simply do some easy stretches and leisurely swimming
  • Language Course-learn a new language on line. I have friends who have done just this and are really enjoying the process.
  • Pets– If you don’t have one and you live alone consider adopting a pet. The reasons are obvious, companionship, responsibility, fun and caring. No negatives here and no time to be bored or complacent. They wont let it happen.

I hope you have fun finding your new or renewed interest. If you have a story to tell of how you fill the hours let me know in the comments. 🌻😃

USA 2017 Part 3

Our next leg of this trip is centred around New Mexico. The highlights were White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns Roswell and up to Colorado to visit Manitou Springs.

After spending the night in La Cruces New Mexico we headed to White Sands National Park. On the way we stopped off at Dripping Springs Natural Area. there is a small visitors centre where the many walks are shown on detailed maps. We were limited in time so did the smallest and closest walk. We visited a cave occupied in the 1800s by a priest with healing powers known as The Hermit. An interesting story in the plagues below.

Continuing onto White Sands National Park, a natural landscape of brilliant tiny particles that reflect the sun, making the crystals shine “white” to the human eye. It covers an area of 275 sq miles (590 km) and is situated in the southeastern part of the state. The wave-like mounds are made predominantly of gypsum crystals, making this the world’s largest gypsum dune field. There is an easy drive about 15 km into the centre of the area. There are some parts of the drive where you feel like you are in another world. Surrounded only by white with the occasional drop of colour spotted on humans experimenting with the landscape. Other areas present more texture and colour with small shrubs and plants protruding. You can walk up and over the dunes or ride a sled down the embankments. We ventured onto the Interdune Boardwalk which is approx 600 metres of easy walking. We were lucky enough to see a couple of lizards along the way and I have to say with no overhead coverage the walk was quite hot. As you can imagine August, even though near the end of summer in the US it is still very hot in this type of environment. In slightly cooler weather you could spend more time simply wandering around, gazing at this natural wonder.

Time for some astronomy of course. It would not be a Wallace trip without visits to the local observatories. Located within the Lincoln National Forest, south of Cloudcroft, is Sunspot. Here you will find the National Solar Observatory on Sacramento Peak. It is at an elevation of 9200 feet (2800 m). I have included a link here to explain its purpose https://sunspot.solar/about I think this will give you more insight than I could give. Unfortunately, we are unable to enter the actual observatories but there were viewing windows showing you the very interesting inner workings of the site. At least the surrounding grounds were quite pleasant to wander through and presented some stunning views of the countryside.

We move on now to Whites City where we stayed for a couple of days to visit Carlsbad Caverns. There are two ways of entering the monstrous limestone mountain. One was the traditional way which is to walk the natural entrance trail down into the massive main cavern. The second was to ride via a lift down 750 feet to reach the underground gift centre and then explore from there. Certainly not the same as the many stairs on offer in the Jenolan Caves system here in NSW Australia. On the first day we chose the lift as it was different. It is quite surprising alighting from the steel interior of the lift, expecting to see a dark and damp space, you are confronted with a huge open cavern with a large brightly lit gift shop with refreshments. It is just not what you expect at all. From here you can do either a quided tour or a self quided tour. As we have been in quite a few caving systems in our time we chose the self-quided. What I remember most was the size of the vast caverns and the ease to access them. The lighting was superb and walkways wound in and out showing all aspects of the limestone. Hopefully this sprinkling of photo’s will give you an idea of the size and beauty. The second day Ken decided to do the walk into the cave. Having scaled many a cave wall in Australian caves over the years this was more natural to him. A very tired but happy person returned relating the experience as being spectacular with another ridiculous amount of photo’s added to the camera.

The next town we visited is one which had come up in conversations many times. Being involved in Astronomy the subject of UFO’s is often broached. Roswell was a town well known for a supposed flying saucer crash in 1947 (it was actually a US Army Air Force balloon). We had to stop out of sheer curiosity. The entire town is decked out in a UFO theme. Everything is greatly embellished, sometimes to the point of ugly. The museum exists of models of aliens, flying saucers, a multitude of newspaper articles and other various things relating to the “visit”. Even the street lights are of an alien nature. I am not sure what we expected but this town is certainly worth a look.

We move a little north now to Santa Fe, still in New Mexico. This town was founded as a Spanish colony in 1610. It is known for its Pueblo style architecture. The town has a main plaza dotted with many grand buildings and churches. The buildings are predominantly made from adobe (sun dried mud) with massive heavy timber doors and dark ceiling beams. There are many churches dotting the horizon in Santa Fe. I believe the main church in the plaza is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi more commonly known as St Frances Cathedral. Another very interesting piece of architecture is The Loretto Chapel, where the Miraculous Spiral Staircase can be found. The history of its origins can easily be researched on the internet along with much advertising for weddings etc. The surrounding narrow streets with all the nooks and crannies, markets, galleries and eating places are quite a treat to wander through. I found this town to be one of the prettier in New Mexico that we experienced. Not far out of Santa Fe we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, locally known as the “High Bridge”, being a steel deck arch bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Taos, New Mexico, US. The gorge depth is 800 feet (240 m) over the Rio Grande river. More importantly this is the bridge featured in the movie “Natural Born Killers” where Mickey and Mallory Knox marry. We then moved onto Taos Pueblo, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is a living village and considered a sacred place where life continues from the earliest of human existence. There are approx. 150 people living within the Taos village. You can wander around the grounds and into the buildings. We noticed people living and working around their homes, of which many were artists selling handmade goods. We found them forthcoming with conversation and interesting people.

We take off early passing via the palisades sill marker. Spectacular cliffs and palisades (fine-grained porphyritic dacite sill) in the Cimarron River canyon in Northern New Mexico. It is a beautiful drive on our way to the Capulin Volcano. The volcano is a cinder cone Volcano and this one is considered a perfect example of the larger ones in USA. From the top of the volcano, four different states can be viewed. The drive up is pleasant and takes only 10-15 minutes to reach the car park. We then took one of the trails to explore more closely. The Crater Rim Trail is a steep paved one mile loop around the rim with fantastic views. The thing I remember most was the lady bugs. Thousands of bright orange and black ladybugs hugging the tree trunks and rocks as you reach higher on the volcano. To see so many in one place is quite spectacular. I believe the bugs feed all summer and then hibernate throughout the winter so we were lucky to be there just at the right time. I had no expectations about this visit and ended up enjoying my time there immensely.

We are finally close to Manitou Springs in Colorado. The part of the trip which I have been looking forward to. The countryside is beautiful everywhere you look. The town is a picturesque tourist town with a variety of old and new shops, eating houses, parks, river walks. We are staying at a motel in the middle of town for a couple of days. The first place on our agenda was Pikes Peak. Part of the Rocky Mountain Range, Pikes Peak stands 14,115 ft above sea level. The road continuously winds through stunning tall pine trees, rocky outcrops with snowy edges and wide open mountainous hills. The road is 19 miles long, has 156 turns and climbs 6,715 ft from the entrance of the highway. Driving is a little scary with steep climbs, sharp turns and death drops on both sides. Very few guard rails and quite a bit of fast moving traffic. It is a long breath holding hour up the mountainside, but once the top is reached the fear is quickly replaced with awe. The air is clean and thin but very chilly and you need a minute or two to adjust for the altitude. Everything is picturesque. For me personally it was overwhelming, I found myself mesmerised by its beauty with a few tears wetting my cheeks. I have seen many beautiful views from very high mountains previously but the contrasting colours of the green trees, the bright blue lakes, the white snow, red rocks and blue and white skies was breathtaking. Maybe it was the combination of the scary drive and the sharp air filling my lungs I really cannot say but it is not a view I will forget easily. We spent some time walking the summit with Ken photographing from every angle. For the feint hearted or time poor there is a cog railway train that will take you to the peak. It does not stop for long but enough to take in the view and of course visit the gift shop. It happened to arrive while we were there so we were able to get a few photo’s and watch it take off on the return trip. We spent some time in the gift shop and cafe before departing for the return trip. What we found interesting just over half way down the mountain there is a compulsory pit stop where every car has to have their brakes checked for overheating. If the brakes were hot you were made to pull over and wait in the car park until they return to normal before continuing the journey. My husband expressed concern quite a few times at other drivers excessive use of their brakes on the way down so it was a very necessary safety stop and there were many cars patiently waiting.

The Manitou cliff dwelling museum was our next stop. I know we have seen quite a few dwellings up till now and the thought of another was not exciting us a lot. These dwellings were original near Mesa Verde but were moved to Manitou in 1907 with the purpose of saving the 40 room structure from vandalism. They were reconstructed with concrete mortar as opposed to the original mud clay to allow human traffic to explore the ruins for many years to come. They have constructed a huge 3 level museum of interesting facts, many stories and some exquisite pieces of art along with the normal touristy gift ideas and restaurant.

The last stop for this leg of the trip is Garden of the Gods. This was unplanned for in our itinerary. We arrived here mid to late afternoon driving through and marvelling at our surrounds. You are able to park in varying places and wander off on side trails stopping for views or to climb some rocks, We were so surprised at the ease of the walking trails and the beauty surrounding us. The park can be navigated in many ways, eg; by car, foot, segway, jeep or even horseback. Most of the pathways are paved and easy walking. There is a trading post with maps, gifts, coffee and snacks. Garden of the Gods is an area gifted to Colorado Springs by Charles Elliott Perkins and his family on the condition that the whole area be free to all visitors forever after his death. He absolutely cherished the place and his legacy was for as many people as possible to see and enjoy what he loved and treasured. Once you have seen it you will agree with his sentiments. We decided to come back the following morning to see the sun shine and highlight the true nature of the many large rock formations. Both red and white boulders jut out from the ground commanding attention. We also walked a lot further this time and Ken climbed one of the taller rock formations. What a peaceful and tranquil way to finish our stay in Colorado.

Hopefully I have not bored anyone too much as I know holidays are really only special to those who are experiencing them. I have to say here, by doing this blog I am certainly reliving our adventure and highly recommend the process. We are not yet finished as we head to The Rocky Mountains National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt Rushmore and The Badlands in South Dakota. I invite you to like and follow my blog. Bye for now.