Iandra Castle, Greenthorpe

Castle !!!!!! In Australia ?????

When it  comes to visiting castles, Australia isn’t at the top of your list, in fact, Oz shouldn’t be on your list at all.  But surprise, they do have a few castles to show off.  They may not be as big or medieval as the ones in the United Kingdom, but for the budget-savvy residents, here’s one that is situated just a couple of hours drive from Sydney.

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Iandra Castle or ‘Mount Oriel – Homestead and Pastoral Estate’ as it is originally called, is located at Greenthorpe in New South Wales.  it is a good 4.5 hour drive from Sydney via Blue Mountains, Bathurst and Cowra.

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Iandra Castle was established by George Henry Greene from 1878-1911 and is modeled on the English Manor System.  It is situated on one of the most picturesque countryside NSW has to offer.

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The Homestead was amazing and set on such a beautiful parcel of land.  Fantastic views from the balcony overlooking well manicured gardens and and endless yellow carpet of canola flowers.

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Pay a $10pp fee and you step inside a plethora of rooms with antique furniture and fittings.  You will lose count of the number of bedrooms (15 I guess), fall in love with the garden, be amazed with the facilities they had in the 1900s and be jealous with the panoramic view of the landscapes that the owners get to enjoy.

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Read more about the castle and its history at “http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5051843”

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I suggest that visitors check the website before planning a visit, as the castle is not opened all times.  Important thing to note is that the castle is privately owned and is not government funded, hence the entry fee.

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Grab a blanket and your picnic baskets, start early, enjoy a day at the grounds of Iandra Castle and its surrounding Canola fields.

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Cowra Japanese Garden

The Japanese garden at Cowra is steeped in history and has a special significance to the Japanese, which is clearly evident from the architecture and the design of the garden.  Its dates back to August 1944, when around 231 Japanese soldiers died when nearly a thousand Japanese prisoners of war broke out from the prison camp.  The soldiers were buried nearby and as a mutual respect, a garden arose as a symbolic representation of that dark day.

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It was opened in 1979 and the Garden’s designer, Ken Nakajima described it as the best Japanese garden outside Japan.

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Features include a bonsai garden, a traditional cottage, Bonsho bell to name a few.  The most striking feature is its serene atmosphere and well maintained gardens with all flora and fauna representing all things Japanese.

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There are audio tours at various places and a map is also available with details of the plants and trees.  You can also pay a visit to the Australian War Museum nearby.

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Springbrook National Park, QLD

It’s time for another Rainforest visit and this time our destination is Springbrook National Park, which is a 40 min drive from Gold Coast, QLD.  Being a ‘road warrior’ all my time, nothing is going to stop me from embarking on the 12-hour drive from Sydney.

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The idea was to visit the Gold Coast theme parks, but avoid the hustle and bustle of staying in one of the many ‘sky-scraping’ apartments or resorts.  That’s when I stumbled onto this cluster of rainforest cottages at Springbrook.

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Now, I am going to keep this place a secret, although with a bit of online peeking it’s easy to find out.  I do guarantee that within a few moments or arriving, you will feel the peace and tranquility flowing around the place.  Not to mention the gentle giant greeting us every time we step out / step in to the cottage.

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Springbrook might paint a picture of being a small town, but has a lot of attractions hidden inside those lush rainforest trees and mountains.  A few among them are the numerous waterfall walks scattered around the National Park.

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The best waterfall in the mountain is the ‘Purling Brook’ falls.  Enjoy a stroll through the forest at the top of the falls, all relatively flat, or take a walk down the canyon floor to get a better look.

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Another major attraction is the ‘Natural Bridge’ rock formation – formed by the force of the waterfall over the erosive basalt cave and is situated on the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road.

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…and many more misty walks !!

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Of course, the main reason for visiting Gold Coast – the theme parks !  Managed to visit ‘Wet n Wild’, ‘Sea World’, ‘WB Movie World’ and also a small farm ‘Paradise Country’.

Well, they are your usual attractions that you possible can see in almost all countries nowadays.  You do enjoy the rides and shows irrespective of how old you are ( BTW, am just 31 !! ).

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I almost had a sinister smile on my face before I started to Gold Coast, as I had assumed that majority of the population would have visited the parks during the Easter period, only to find out later that my visit coincided with the school holidays !!

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I had cut down on my long drives due to budget constraints.  But do not worry, over the next couple of months I am going to add some local flavours !! (Hint: in and around Sydney)

Ciya for the next trip……

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A day trip to Bowral !

Bowral is the largest town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.  It is approx. 115 kms from Sydney via Hume Highway.  You can also take one of the many tourist drives to enjoy the vineyards and creeks.

Apart from its popularity for wineries, a must see attraction in Bowral is the amazing ‘Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame’ which is open throughout the year.  Another popular seasonal festival is the ‘Tulip Time’ held in late September and early October.

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I took a day trip to Bowral and Thirlmere to visit two major attractions – ‘Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame’ and ‘Trainworks – Rail & Train Museum’

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The Bradman Museum houses state-of-the-art interactive experiences and a museum collection of national significance.

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Live footage from around the world, touch screen kiosks, fascinating memorabilia and a contemporary art gallery are just a few of the exhibits that will keep you entertained for hours

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You will be fascinated by the story of cricket set against world history, captivated by the recent broadcasts from around the world, intrigued by the real Sir Donald Bradman, and inspired by the integrity of the greats of the game.  See his very first bat, baggy green and an interactive letter trail.

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This gallery traces the fascinating history of cricket from the 14th century. A major focus is the life and accomplishments of Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time.

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Using memorabilia, photos, statistics and on-demand audio and visual footage, you can review the best players of all time, from all eras.

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Combined with touch screens and unique objects, the time lines and footage place the development of cricket in the context of global events.

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The International Cricket Hall of Fame is open everyday from 10am – 5pm, except Christmas Day.

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You should allow half a day at the least to fully appreciate the history or cricket at the museum.  The general admission cost for Adults is $20 and children, $11.

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A short 15 min drive from the museum takes you to the ‘Centennial Vineyards Restaurent’.  It was recently awarded 5 stars by the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion, an achievement reached by less than 5% of wineries.

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After having finished my lunch, I proceeded to Thirlmere.  Thirlmere is 35 kms north of Bowral and a major attraction here is the ‘Trainworks – Rail & Train Museum’

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Thirlmere was once a booming town of tents for the many railway workers who created the Great Southern Railway from 1863 to 1867.

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At the Main Exhibition building, you will learn about life on the lines and in the workshops, marvel at some of the engineering and design achievements of the railways, find out how signals and points keep the lines safe, walk the timeline of rail development from the invention of the very first steam powered engine to today, and see how the railways revolutionized tourism and leisure travel in Australia.

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The Great Train Hall houses the biggest collection of rolling stock in Australia. A significant portion of the collection has been steadily refurbished and restored over the years by volunteers

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Some of the carriages are accessible – climb aboard and relive some of your favorite rail travel memories or experience for the first time the feel, look and smell of these wonderful relics of Australian social history.

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You can also take the historic Steam ride from Thirlmere station to Buxton station and return which is a 45 min experience.

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Enjoy the sound and light show which tells the story of loco 1021

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Trainworks is open 7 days a week and the ticket prices are $19 for Adults and $11 for a child.

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Ciya on the next journey !!!

 

Bellingen-Dorrigo

Another Easter weekend ! Another long weekend !
In my 4.5 years in Sydney, all my travel adventures have been during Easter. Spent my 1st and 3rd Easter in Melbourne, my 2nd one at Gold Coast. My 4th one was surprisingly at Sydney and my 5th one at Bellingen and Dorrigo.
Why Bellingen ? I wanted to spend my Easter weekend with not many people around, less noise, more picturesque etc… and what better place than Bellingen.

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My original destination was Dorrigo, but when I surfed for accommodation I found this cottage at Bellingen (in fact there are quite a lot of cottages in Bellingen) – AfterGlow cottages.  I will come to the cottage later.

Bellingen is a picturesque town situated roughly halfway between Brisbane and Sydney. Running through the center of town is the Bellinger River and it promises a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Its a good 6 hour drive from Sydney, 30 mins from Coffs Harbour and 30 mins from Dorrigo. Its not just an old town, there are quite a few things to do in Bellingen.IMG_4253_1

They have some very good restaurents and cafes. They also have what is called as the ‘Old Butter Factory’
The first butter factory was opened in October 1906, and was built by well known local builder George Moore for the Upper Bellingen Co-operative Society Ltd. The site is currently home to a number of galleries, museums and cafes.

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I stayed at ‘AfterGlow Cottages’ which is a 5 min drive from the main town.  Its nestled among green hills and beautiful streams.  They have a few diary cottages which boasts of an outdoor spa, fully equipped kitchen, double shower and a spa to name a few.  I hardly saw anybody during my 2-night stay there.  The only life visible was the early morning blue robins and kookaburras and a few kangaroos rummaging the bushes for food.

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It was raining the entire Easter weekend but that did not dampen my spirits. I packed my camera, started towards Dorrigo on the Waterfall Way. Because of the rains, most of the waterfalls were overflowing and was a beautiful sight to watch.
The main attraction at Dorrigo was the Dorrigo Rainforest Center.

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Due to the incessant rains, I was the first person to visit the Center at 9AM and the center itself was beautiful with its shops and cafes.  They even had an information video on Dorrigo and the rain-forests.  The main attractions at the Rainforest Center were the Skywalk and the numerous walks leading to gorgeous waterfalls.

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Unfortunately, both were a bit of dampeners.  First, the skywalk was covered with mist and the Dorrigo mountains were not visible !  Next, 1 km into the rainforest walk, I had half a dozen leeches on me (myself to be partly blamed as I was not properly clothed for the walk).  Just managed to take a few pics.

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As the rains were never going to stop, I decided to just visit the falls in the vicinity. The first one on the list ‘Dangar Falls’. Its situated on the Northern Tablelands with views to ‘Oxley Wild Rivers’
Its a 15 min walk from the car park, which was made even more difficult due to the rains. But once I reached the footsteps of the falls, I was wondering why I did not bring my poncho. I was completely drenched and so was my camera (lucky it survived !)

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The next one on the list was the ‘Ebor Falls’, a slightly bigger one than Dangar.  There are 3 lookout platforms for Ebor – upper falls, lower falls and valley view.  A walking track links the upper and lower falls which is of Easy grade.  Its basically the Guy Fawkes river meandering along the edges of the township of Ebor and dropping over Ebor Falls.

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A few more on the ‘Waterfall Way’

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I finally said goodbye to Bellingen.  Since I was so close to Coffs Harbour I do not want to miss the ‘Big Banana’ which is the most photographed object in Australia and was modeled on a prize winning banana back in 1964.  In my opinion its just another theme park with various attractions like an ice skating ring, candy-making kitchen, toboggan ride, mini golf, laser tag arena cafe, nursery, gift shop and a theater.  But having said that, being in Australia I managed to visit the ‘Great Banana’ and that’s one item off the list !!

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On the way back to Sydney, I took a small detour on one of the many tourist drives and we ended up at the ‘Smoky Cape’ lighthouse.   is surrounded by the stunning coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park.  Smoky Cape is a fantastic spot for whale watching, bird watching and picnicking.
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Throughout the post, you see me mentioning rain at a number of places.  This is not an area of complain or concern as I love travelling and visiting places when its raining.  Its just for information purposes as most of my pictures will be covered in fog or smudged by rains and still managed to lend a frostiness to the images.  Goodbye for now and see you later for my next trip !

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Floriade 2014

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FLORIADE first began when Peter Sutton and his colleague, landscape designer Chris De Bruine, developed a proposal for a grand floral display to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary and Canberra’s 75th birthday.

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Floriade comes from the Latin word floriat, which means to design with flowers.

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Floriade started in 1988 and due to the success and popularity of the event, it has run every year since then with each year having a new theme and is currently the largest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Floriade’s major focus is flowers, but lots of other activities take place around the stunning floral displays. Enjoy culinary demonstrations by world-renowned chefs, learn a thing or two about gardening and horticulture, listen to live music or pat a few cute and cuddly animals at the petting zoo.

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Floriade became even more fabulous in 2008 when it introduced NightFest: an after-dark extravaganza that unfolds over five nights, transforming the park into an illuminated wonderland filled with fun and frivolity.  Unfortunately, I missed the NightFest on both the occasions I visited Floriade.

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Floriade’s quirkiest element is the Gnome Knoll.  Admire thousands of decorated garden gnomes that not only vie for prizes but help the Rotary Club of Canberra East raise money for a range of community projects.

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It takes months of planning to build the temporary flowerbeds, pathways and infrastructure. Gardening teams vary the times that flowers bloom throughout the month by planting bulbs at different depths.

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During the festival, gardeners keep the flowers looking their best by removing deadheads, reshaping garden beds and monitoring the soil’s pH, salt and nutrient levels.

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When Floriade comes to an end, its flowers are put to good use.  The remaining blooms are cut and sent to local hospitals and nursing homes so that even more people can enjoy their beauty.

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No wonder the event is also called “Australia’s Celebration of Spring”.

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A few other attractions at the park

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A few more clicks on our way to Canberra !!

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Which brings me to the end of this post.

From Sydney, Canberra is a 55-minute flight, three-hour drive or four-and-a-half-hour train ride.  The Floriade is held every year at the Commonwealth Park overlooking Lake Burley Griffin.

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Mandarins !!!

I must first apologize for not having been active last couple of months.  Its partly due to a personal commitment which restricted my crazy travel weekends.

But, having said that, the coming months look exciting with quite a few road trips planned which means more areas to be explored and more pics to be expected.  Yay !!!

This one is going to be a very short post where I share my experience in Mandarin picking.  Its a first for me and I was so excited in anticipation of what lies ahead of me.

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I went to a place called ‘Ford’s Farm’ which specializes in Mandarin picking.  They are situated on the banks of the Hawkesbury river, close to ‘Wiseman Ferry’.  IMG_3230 They have the following varieties of madarins at their farm.  1) Imperial Mandarins 2) Satsuma 3) Emperor 4) Hickson 5) Cumquats.  In addition to that they also have lime and lemons.  But during the time I visited there were only 3 varieties available – Imperial, Satsumas and Cumquats.

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The Imperial mandarin tree is a large evergreen shrub that produces fruits with a pale smooth skin.  It has glossy green dense foliage and perfumed white flowers, which are followed by edible fruit.

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This is followed by the Satsuma Mandarins.  It is a seedless and easy-peeling citrus fruit.  One of the distinguishing features of the satsuma is the thin, leathery skin dotted with large and prominent oil glands, enabling it to be peeled very easily in comparison to other mandarin varieties.

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Finally, the cumquats.  This edible fruit closely resembles that of the orange, but is much smaller and ovular, being approximately the size and shape of a large olive!.

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The farm charges $2 a kilo for Imperial and Satsuma mandarins and $10 for the Cumquats.  The good thing is that you are allowed to taste them whilst picking.  I managed to gobble nearly a dozen of them !!!.

On my way back, I decided to take a detour via Wiseman Ferry to experience the fun of riding a ferry while you are still seated inside the car.  It was a very short ride approximating 3-4 minutes.

The detour fortunately took me through some of the scenic drives and with the autumn in full effect, I saw a mirage of colors ranging from red, yellow to purple and brown.

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That was an eventful day and the drive back home was even more enjoyable.  As promised earlier, my next post will be filled with colors and I will just give a hint of what’s to come. “Tulipa”.

 

Welcome !

Hiya Friends….What started as an overnight thought actually turned out to be true.  Yes ! I have my own blog now.  Thanks to my anonymous friend who pushed me into this.  This blog will concentrate on my various travel experiences introducing some of you to new people and cultures and also hopefully gain knowledge on my future travel endeavors.  I will try and post more pics and less words to keep it interesting.  Keep watching this space for more !!!