Monthly Archives: January 2011

ROYAL NATIONAL PARK, SYDNEY – too hot, too dry, too steep…for me, this time.

There's nowhere to hide on the climb between Audley and Loftus

The wonderful Tour Down Under was on TV during the week, inspiring me to get out on the bike. I need to do some serious training for big organised rides I’ve signed up for in March. So yet again I rode from Sydney’s Inner West down to Cronulla. It’s a favourite ride of mine. I’ve done it at least a hundred times, and I confess that although it’s always pleasant pedalling along the Cook’s River, around the beaches at Brighton-le-Sands and Ramsgate, then along the mangrove walk/cycle path to a coffee stop facing North Cronulla Beach, it always seems duller riding back home again.

So this time I decided to live a little and do something new, exciting and different. I took the short ferry trip from Cronulla across to the Royal National Park. It’s the oldest nature reserve in Australia, established in 1879. America’s Yellowstone National Park is the only older one in the world. The RNP is a jewel just 32km south of central Sydney, with wild beaches, stands of spectacular forest…and many kilometres of undulating bitumen.
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Filed under Cycling, Travel-Australia

AMAZING YETI PHOTO? – my confirmed sighting in Khumjung, Nepal

The yeti scalp in its place of honour.

I’ve been sorting out photos of my recent expedition to Nepal, for publication with an article I wrote for the Sun-Herald newspaper – coming soon, don’t miss it.

I found some curious photos I’d almost forgotten in the excitement.

...about as exciting as watching yak dung drying.


The air is thin in Khumjung village, altitude 3790 metres, just off the main ‘Everest Highway’ which leads trekkers like us towards the top of the world. There’s little between the Khumjung houses but stone walls and little fields, with juniper berries and yak dung drying on sheets of plastic.

Khumjung Village, Nepal


But the Khumjung Gomba buddhist monastery has one irresistible tourist attraction – a yeti scalp, which they acquired in a curious way… Continue reading

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PETERSHAM, SYDNEY – sights for a stay-at-home traveller

Luis Geraldes' wall of tiles, Petersham.

Since I’m not going anywhere exotic for a while, I set myself a little challenge. Can I treat my own Sydney suburb as a tourist destination? Has familiarity bred contempt and blinded me to its charms? Are there worthwhile sights, fascinating stories and must-do experiences on my own doorstep? Lonely Planet fails to mention Petersham. Can I put it on the map?

When the first international visitors arrived from Europe and looked at the area where our house now stands, about five miles from their Sydney Cove landing site, they liked what they saw. Trees – good for boat-building. Mr Thomas Moore snapped up the timber rights, since the Cadigal people who were the traditional owners didn’t seem to be using the forest for anything important as far as he could see.

The first house in Petersham was built on this site in the 1820's, surrounded by a deer park. Parramatta Rd has changed a bit since then.

Then in 1824 the flamboyant barrister Dr Robert Wardell arrived in the new colony, bought 800 hectares of land around our place and built himself a grand house on the site that became Fort St High School. Now it’s sandwiched between Kennard’s Self Storage warehouse and Rick Damelian car yards.

Wardell Rd runs from the Georgiou’s Chocolate Factory down to the golf course at the Cook’s River, where Dr Wardell used to take guests to hunt the deer he’d introduced. They must have been good shots, because the deer are all gone now. Dr Wardell himself was murdered by runaway convicts in 1834, while he was out for a Sunday ride on his estate. The Cook’s River is rather safer these days, and one of my favourite Sunday rides is along the cycleway.

Georgiou’s, on busy New Canterbury Rd, is Petersham’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s an untidy block of a building, but on weekdays buses line up outside it and people on organised shopping tours spill out to buy cheap choccies. Inside it’s a Willy Wonka’s Wonderland of teeth-rotting confectionery from around the world.

New Canterbury Rd, Petersham


New Canterbury Rd is Petersham’s main drag, choked with buses, trucks and cars, overhung with power lines and too narrow to allow much in the way of trendy trattorias. This is a pity, because there are some fine 19th century buildings and small cafes, delis and cake shops which like to seat customers outside. Most manage a small table or two, but the traffic fumes and noise make them unpleasant places to linger.

Over the past couple of decades, Petersham has become Sydney’s Little Portugal. If there’s any reason for visitors to include Petersham on their itinerary, it’s the Portuguese cuisine. Continue reading

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BRISBANE FLOODS – a (relatively) good news story

The clean-up begins. Photo Debra Kolkka.

While I’ve been writing about the Sydney Festival and pleasant theatre events, it will not have escaped the notice of anyone with the slightest interest in Australia that recent floods in Queensland and now Victoria have been taking a terrible toll.

It’s nothing compared to the recent flood disasters in Pakistan and Brazil of course, but quite bad enough. More than twenty people have drowned and thousands have had their homes and businesses ruined.

The house of my fellow blogger and regular correspondent Debra Kolkka was one of those which went under the muddy water. She’s written about it and posted photos, first of the damage, then of the clean-up.

It is an inspiring story of a community, neighbourhood and friends working together and I warmly recommend it to you.

Check out Debra Kolkka’s blog.

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SYDNEY THEATRE AWARDS – should I prepare a speech?

Thomas (Matthew Whittet) confesses his doubts to his mate Jesus (John Leary) in The Book of Everything. Photo Heidrun Lohr.

Hollywood’s glamorous Golden Globe Awards are being presented today, while in the Paddington RSL Club tonight a more modest affair will be taking place as the Sydney Theatre Award winners are announced.

My stage adaptation of Guus Kuijer’s novel The Book of Everything has been nominated as Best New Australian Work and also as Best Production for Children. Kim Carpenter has been nominated for his costumes for the show, while our director Neil Armfield, and actors Yael Stone and Peter Carroll are up for gongs for their work on other productions. Congratulations all, and we’re delighted to have been recognised.

The stars will be arriving at the Golden Globes in their limos, walking the red carpet, dressed in Gucci and Armani. In Paddington, Mevrouw T and I will hoping for a good parking spot for the Corolla, then walking the footpath, dressed in clothes sourced from Marrickville recycled clothing shops. I found a fine tuxedo there for $2, but decided against it. Too dressy. It’s just wasn’t me.

No doubt the Golden Globes will be surrounded by glittering parties where the Moet will flow. At the Sydney Theatre Awards it’s buy your own drinks at bar prices – a sure way to keep the acceptance speeches coherent.

Which brings me to my dilemma. Is it uncool to carry an acceptance speech in my pocket? ‘Wow, this is just sooo amazing!’ followed by floods of tears is fine if you win Best New Supporting Actor, but we writers are expected to be witty and articulate. We have thirty seconds to get a few laughs and offer an insightful exit strategy from the crisis in Afghanistan.

It’s hard to do that off the cuff. On the other hand, pulling out a sheet of paper looks as if you expected to win. Even worse is not winning, and someone finding out later that you’d spent a month preparing the speech.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter. It’s nice to be nominated. There’s no money involved. It’s probably not even a boost to the career. In the unlikely event of your name being called, everybody wants you on and off the podium asap, and nobody cares how much your grandkids contributed to the Best Production for Children.

Naturally, all of the above is just an excuse to mention The Book of Everything again. It is a super production, and will tour later this year to Adelaide, Darwin, Geelong, Wollongong, and Sydney’s Seymour Centre. Plans are well in train for a modest New York run in 2012. Do make sure you see it.

STOP PRESS: The Book of Everything won the award as 2010 Best Production for Children. Director Neil Armfield and producer/designer Kim Carpenter did the talking, so I could just sit back and be thanked myself – which was much more relaxing!

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HOW TO BE A WRITER – a cautionary tale

This is not my own original work. I found it on the net, on Facebook (blush, blush!) I don’t even know whose work this is – it was uncredited there too.

But since my play Snow on Mars is running in Sydney at the moment, with its astronaut theme, circus performers and the fruits of my personal writing agonies on display – it seemed an appropriate time to bring this to the world’s attention.

NOTE TO SELF: Have an adventure/bizarre experience/personal crisis v. soon to give self something interesting to write about.

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