Monday, January 30

Australia Day in Aotearoa

We've just returned from a three-day weekend in Wellington, New Zealand's windy capital city. The weather was mainly sunny and the winds were mild most days. The first full afternoon in town was windy and so I was able to convince Garry that this really is New Zealand's windy capital.  There's nothing like a horizon smothered in white caps and wind-blown water gusts to make your point.

We stayed in a hotel on Cuba Street, an area that's fast beginning Wellington's cafe and night life hotspot.  We ate some superb Thai close to our hotel and were somewhat bemused by the antics of harmless weekend revelers.  As you'd expect we took in all of the regular sights; the Kilburn Cable Car, Te Papa National Museum, the National Archives (where tattered copies of the Treaty of Whitangi can be found) and the spectacular Kapiti Coast.

Here's a quick panorama taken from the top of Mount Victoria (below). It's a stunning view, shared with just a handful of noisy Japanese tour buses. Click on the photo for a full-size image.  More details on our weekend coming soon.

Monday, January 2

Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Kamay Botany Bay National Park is arguably home to one of modern Australia’s most sacred sites. Within the park’s boundary lies the landing place of Captain James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour. The exact location where they stepped ashore on Saturday, April 28, 1770 is marked by a stone obelisk. On its southern flank a bronze plaque records an extract from Cook’s journal entry;

"At Daybreak we discovered a bay and anchored under the South shore about two miles within the entrance in six fathom water, the South point bearing SE and the North Point East. Latitude 34°S Longitude 208°27’ W.”

The Endeavour’s arrival transformed the continent’s destiny.In particular, the testimony of two seasoned botanists, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, proved instrumental in encouraging British authorities to establish a penal colony in 1788. Over a period of eight days, Banks and Solander collected an unprecedented variety of specimens, many edible, while noting the presence of freshwater, a sheltered harbour and a favourable climate.

Garry and I decided to relive this history today by visiting the National Park today. The weather was picture perfect; clear and sunny with a pleasant breeze. We took several short walks to admire the view, read the many interpretive plaques and enjoy the sun’s warmth. A short walk from the Park’s Visitor’s Centre took us through a wooded picnic ground to the rocky coastline. It was fascinating to watch multicultural Australia at its best. Where else could you see old men fish while children play cricket and veiled women smoke shisha from a hookah pipe?

We soon discovered that Cook’s obelisk is just one of several memorials scattered along Botany Bay’s southern flank. Other notable memorials commemorate both Banks and Solander, while nearby, a low stone plinth rests on a tidal rock shelf. It commemorates Midshipman Isaac Smith, the first Englishman to stand on the Australian continent. Further along the coast a short flag pole marks the spot where Forby Sutherland was buried on May 2, 1770. He died of tuberculosis and thus became immortalized as Australia’s first European grave

We then drove along the coast to Yena Gap, opposite the entrance to Botany Bay. A short walk took us down to rocky ledges where foaming white waves were crashing ashore. The view was spectacular, first across the bay to the La Perouse headland and then out across the blue expanse of the Tasman Sea. So often I’ve flown over this area, either departing or landing at the airport, just a few miles away. No matter how many times I fly out, Sydney’s harsh, battered and rocky coast line is always a welcome sight on my return.

Our last stop for the day was Cape Solander where the park’s scenic road comes to an end. Here towering sandstone cliffs sweep down the coast for miles. Once again, the sensation of a brisk sea breeze proved both intoxicating and awe-inspiring as waves pounded the rocks below. Beautiful.