Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rapid Bay Jetty

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The surf gets a bit choppier when we go to get out. A bit difficult for some, but very educational.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The adventure (so far)

Well, this is a map of the places I have been after 3 "world" trips.

Where will my next travels take me...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

28/7/2006 - Sisteron

Tuesday it was...

I had organized a flight at the Sisteron Gliding club based
on the experiences of a couple of the other Australian
Pilots who are over here. It was also a rest day for the
competitors based on forecasts of coming thunderstorms in
the local area. Eventually it was not as bad as some of the
days that they did fly anyway.

Paul Schofield (a New Zealand pilot) had bust his Achilles
tendon after an outlanding on day 2 of the comp. See,
gliding is a dangerous sport. He was chasing his crew down a
dirt road to catch up with them and slipped in a pot hole.
He said I could use his car to travel in as he needs a
driver to take both car and glider back to Belgium later (so
I will get to see Brussels at some time in the future too).

We both headed up to Sisteron where I sat in on their
briefing in French and afterwards went out to the flight
line to take some pictures. While I was there a most
interesting thing happened.

One of the foreign pilots had a Nimbus motor glider which he
had towed out to the takeoff point. For some reason he
started the engine from outside the cockpit. Inevitably it
bowled him over then the motor glider did its own thing.
Ultimately after traveling in a big arc onto and off the
active runway it came to rest in an apple orchard. Well, I
say came to rest, but in truth it careered straight into one
of the trees uprooting it bodily. As it turns out, this was
probably one of the least worst outcomes for the glider.
Although the sudden stop caused the tail boom to break,
there was really not much other damage done. Even the
cockpit area seemed only trivially damaged after uprooting a
tree. I suppose it means the designers are getting the
“crashworthiness” stuff right. The wings were supported
by the branches of the other trees and a quick assessment
seemed to show they weren’t even scratched.

The poor original pilot got whizzed of to hospital to check
that his injuries were just scratches etc, then all his
mates went flying! That left a group of Belgians to extract
it. Paul (with leg in a cast) and I gave a little bit of a
hand as the glider was disassembled and put back in the
trailer being careful not to misplace our footing by
stepping on any of the many apples that had been knocked out
of the trees. I said Paul would have looked very funny with
a cast on both legs.

After that I jumped in a Duo Discus with Jean Pierre an
instructor and tuggy. We couldn’t leave till after 13:00
due to the towing commitments and then it was likely we
would only get 2-3 hours in the air due to expected
thunderstorms mentioned at the briefing.

I had decided to fly from Sisteron as it was closer in to
the mountains and didn’t need such a long flight just to
get there as at Vinon where the competition is being held.
We headed out to the area near Lac de Serre Poncon and
tooled around that area for a while.
The lake is actually a dam and is the biggest man made water
feature in Europe. We even watched a group of folks
parapenting over one of the little towns perched up on a

The mountains in this locality are about 7000 feet above sea
level and we were cruising along the tops of them and
sometimes down in the valleys.

Then off to the west we went. This area is mountainous too,
but there are not as many interesting sites to see, so after
swanning around for about an hour over there we went back to
Sisteron township (about 20km south of the airfield). Jean
Pierre had been worried about the thunderstorms all during
the flight and had kept in contact with the airfield
checking on the weather the whole time. The forecasted
weather didn’t happen at either Sisteron or to the north,
but down south Vinon way the air was very grey and thick
looking. Lucky they had given a rest day.

So, one instructive bit of excitement followed by a 150
minute flight in the mountains. You couldn’t get a more
interesting day than that, could you? Well, the day wasn’t
over yet!

As we were packing away the Duo I noticed a couple of blue
clad Gendarmes on the field. Paul saw the development of
this saga but I only dropped in at the end. Apparently, a
syndicate had bought a new Nimbus (note to self, avoid
Nimbii in future, they seem to only cause trouble!). The
syndicate were in the process of doing the paperwork to get
it airborne. However, one of the syndicate was so keen that
he thought he would take it for a fly unregistered and,
worst of all, uninsured. Strangely, the other syndicate
members took a pretty dim view of their expensive investment
floating about the sky and rocks like that and gave the
local gendarmerie a call. When the impetuous pilot got back,
sure enough, a couple of boys in blue were waiting for him
and I saw them march the erstwhile aviator off, one each
side, to an unknown future.

After we paid our bills and said our goodbyes we drove back
to Vinon with a short look around Sisteron on the way.
Sisteron, the town, is built where a river passes through
two steep spurs. Since time immemorial it has been a
strategic place levying tolls etc. The Romans built a fort
on the hills and in later years the likes of Napoleon carved
out gun emplacements covering the river. In between those
two periods there had been significant constructions and
alterations of the town, its fortifications and the citadel.

Paul and I had some nice icecream in the town square before
we pushed off home to Vinon with strange and unexpected
tales of what should have been a rather pedestrian day out.

Monday, July 24, 2006

23/7/2006 - Vinon, some more

It is Sunday and I have been to the town market this morning. A lot of the market was cheap foreign tat. I looked for some presents for the kids but couldn’t find much. Plenty of ladies clothes and just about any sort of food but no real good French souvenirs.

The town is called Vinon sur Verdon. Of course, Vinon on the Verdon river. The weather has been pretty hot which can sometimes lead to very strong thunderstorms in the evening. Luckily it isn’t like Australia and the nights are cool.

As there wasn’t a huge lot of interest in the Market I walked up to the old part of the village. There is a very summery feel and I have a very strong impression of the place being like Quorn. I know that sounds a bit weird, but the older part of town has no cars (the streets are too small) and all the buildings are stone but haven’t been looked after for a few years. I even found a window which had been closed up with flattened oil drums. But everything is expensive. I was looking at a real estate office and the cheapest place I found was 140 000 Euros. It was a combined lounge/kitchen, a bedroom and a small garage. No mention of a bathroom and I suspect it might not have had one in the flat itself. Normal small houses are 300 000 E.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

21/7/2006 - A bit more Vinon

It is quite hot here. Mid 30's today and forecast high 30's tomorrow. But it cools down at night so it is not too bad.

It doesn't get dark till about 9:30 at night so it is not like when I was in France last year. This area is also very dry.

I went for a fly yesterday near the mountains and saw the Grand Canyon of the Verdon. It flows into Lake Sainte Croix. There are lots of small villages built on the cliffs in the area. The Verdon river runs down a valley to where the aerodrome is. There are lots of normal (newish) towns in the valley. The village near the airfield is almost all new houses built for tourists but Mandy and Peter are staying in a bed and breakfast which is converted old stone farm buildings. Their place is called le Clappe.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

18/7/2006 - Where I have been lately

I spent some interesting time in Freiburg including a trip to the hills where I went on the Sielbahn. When I got to the top of the hills there was a long walk to an observation tower. I also went into some old mine tunnels. When I came out of the tunnels it was raining and the rain and thunderstorms seemed to follow me always.

On Sunday, I took the train from Freiburg to Vinon. I actually had to get 6 trains (one by accident!). On the very first train to Basel I got off at the train station Basel BBF which is the German Basel, Not the Swiss Basel which was 5 km away where I should have been!!! Luckily I approached the train driver of my last train who had just got off. He arranged to put me on another (empty) train which was just leaving for the next station so I did not miss out after all. I then caught another 3 trains to Marseilles which was hot, dry and crowded.

It seemed to be full of people just waiting and so I became one of them. I was then able to ring up the Australians at Vinon and got directions to the nearby town of Manosque. Another train to catch so I rejoined the waiting people. Eventually after that last ride I got to Vinon at 18:45. I had left Freiburg at 05:15.

Yesterday (Monday) was a public holiday in France. I went to the supermarket with some of the other Australians. After we got back the gliders were finishing, in the middle of one of the worst thunderstorms I have seen for a long time. Peter Temple (one of the two Australian Pilots here) landed on the airfield in a place where wheat had recently been grown. He could not see anything at all and with 65 knots indicated on his airspeed nearly stalled onto the ground as he was so wet! No one saw him land as it was raining so hard. Other gliders landed later in big pools of water which sprayed up so much it was not possible to see the rear of the glider.

Water flooded out many tents. So my first impressions of France are somewhat mixed. When it is not a thunderstorm it is quite warm and dry, much like Australia. The competition has been cancelled for today as more (and worse, how could it be?) thunderstorms are expected. It was very lucky yesterday no gliders were damaged or pilots hurt. One pilot has been hurt in the competition so far. The New Zealand pilot has gone to hospital for surgery today. He outlanded on Sunday and when he saw his crew he was so happy he ran towards them, slipped and burst his Achilles tendon. Very dangerous gliding competition! I do not know what the the other Australians will do today, I will join them probably.

I also have arranged for a flight with the tow pilots here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

16/7/2006 - Arrive in Vinon

I am in France today, this is the first morning. I am sitting in front of a hangar in the sun eating a chocolate croisson and drinking hot chocolate and orange juice. I arrived yesterday evening after traveling 9.5 hours on 5 trains from Germany (Freiburg), Basel (Switzerland), Lyons, Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence and now here. Vonon sur Verdon

Had tea in a french seafood restaurant last night with 8 other Aussies. Two of us had Salat Paysanne, 6 had salat kebab and one lady ordered what turned out to be octopus and she nearly screamed when it arrived in front of her. Luckily one of the blokes was willing to swap his kebab salat with her.

Friday, July 14, 2006

13/7/2006 - Bad Herrenalb

Third day in Germany and I am in a small town called Bad Herrenalb.

I arrived here yesterday after visiting the DG glider factory in Bruchsal. I hired a car from FF and drove Bad Herrenalb is in the Schwarze Walde and this particular town seems to be a health resort or similar. Lots of older people around. Later today I will leave for Freiberg, but I have to have a go in the hotel swimming pool
before I go. The hotel is an older one, but it is one of the few that have an internet connection.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

12/7/2006 - Freiberg Mine

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11/7/2006 - Frankfurt Hotel (City West)

The hotel is in an unusual district. The building across the
road is empty on all floors except the ground which has a
few entertainment places. Most of the ground floor
establishments in this block are taken up with bars or
“video centers” which seem to boast 300 different
videos, but I noticed they don’t seem to have the latest
Hollywood movies. There are also quite a few places which
appear to have ladies gymnastics clubs, although I
couldn’t read the signs. It appears that chaps, if they
want to, are allowed to go in and watch, but. I couldn’t
work out why the ladies wear so little. Probably because it
is summer and very hot, I suppose. There is usually a very
friendly guy at the door of these places, I suppose to keep
fellows with low morals out. They are so friendly that I was
almost pushed into the gymnasiums to see the show (on three
separate occasions). The nice man even said that I
wouldn’t have to pay the cover charge. Whatever that is.
Next door to the empty building there is also a place which
has lovely red curtains. At night time they are lit up which
gives the whole front of the building a lovely pink glow.
But it’s a little odd. It is called the “Sex Inn”, I
think that’s German for number 6 and there might be
another five somewhere else. But only blokes seem to go in
there. Probably tired after a days work and need a quick
rest I should think. Even during the middle of the day too.
The fellows seem to walk along in a determined straight line
then at the last minute duck into the doorway. Probably only
deciding they need a rest as they see the door and taking
the opportunity at the last moment. I haven’t seen any
ladies go in though. They probably aren’t allowed, it
would most likely lead to too much boisterousness.
The photo shows my hotel (my room is 5th floor. The leftmost
window at the top). You can also see “Babalu Bar” and
“Star Star”, one of those movie places. Also on the
corner next to “Star Star” is one of those gymnasium
thingies, but it is hard to see in the picture.
I am told by my friend Sabine, that this area is one of the
safest in the whole of Frankfurt due to the high
concentration of police. Isn’t that nice of them to patrol
this area specially :-)

11/7/2006 - Frankfurt Tuesday

Today was a little less hectic. I finally went to the Art museum and saw the display "Die Eroberung Der Strasse" (The Taming of the Street) covering the development of the urban landscape over the last 200 years or so in Paris and Berlin. I found it particularly fascinating as the Paris parts were quite familiar from last year. The displays were a combination of painting by various artists (including Monet) and technical town planning documents.

I later met up with Sabine again as she had promised to take me to the FF university Observatory. Strangely I hadn’t seen it, but walked within 30 metres of it when I visited the natural history museum yesterday. Sabine had choir practice at 1900 so we went swimming at the Brentano Schwimmbads in the afternoon. This is basically a huge open air pool. Maybe 50m wide and 200 long. The shallow end is fenced off for the non swimmers and a sign is mounted on the fence to warn non swimmers not to go any further. However, it was round the wrong way, so it couldn’t be read unless you were on the deep side of the fence, and I would have thought most non swimmers were probably too young to read as well! It was not as crowded as I thought it might be, and that might be due to Germans not normally learning to swim as early as Australians do.

As we left to go to the rehearsal, the clouds were building up after 2 days of clear skies. I am not usually a listener to classical music, but I stopped in at a final rehearsal of the FF Uni Orchestra. On Wednesday (tomorrow night) they are supposed to be performing Mendelssohn’s Symphony 10 (Elisia?) and this was the first time the full choir and instruments had been together. Over the weekend they had been practicing, but as separate groups. Sabine thought it would take 1-2 hours, but in the event it took more than 2 1/2 . Especially toward the end, the conductor was getting quite aggravated with the soloists, the strings and as it ran so long a lot or the choristers would sit down while not required and then pop up again, just to sing! The conductor, a beefy bloke in a black tank top and trousers was very particular about what he wanted. Me being tone deaf couldn’t tell what was wrong.
One of the lady choral soloists who was singing just in front of me was made to go over a part of her piece a number of times and when the conductor was finally satisfied she gave me a look that said she didn’t know either. I think she half expected to be called back as she walked away. As the practice was drawing to a close, there was a bit of lightening anf thunder. I could tell the storm was getting closer. Just when we wanted to go to the cars, the rain came down. There wouldn’t be much hope of astronomy tonight.

We went off for tea in the hope that it would clear and went to the observatory, where I took some, not very good, night shots of FF skyline.

11/7/2006 - FF

I spent yesterday (Monday) trying to get around to museums and places of interest, but sadly most places are closed on Mondays.

However, I went to Goethe's house (but he wasn't in).

Soccer is dying down over here, but even yesterday morning there were people wandering the streets shouting "italia", I even got a picture of the rubbish bin men with an Italian flag on their truck.

I spent a lot of yesterday on my feet, I woke up at 0400 (still on Australian time!) and went to try to organise a car to drive to France (that will be 480 Euro, I think I might be on the train instead!)

I bought a day pass for the public transport and then went to a part of FF called the Roemerberg. I think it had something to do with government (apart from being an old restored area). The Rathaus is there and an old church which was used (I think) for a parliamentary building in the past. There are also a lot of churches there.

The church is Alte Nikolaikirche (old Nicholas' Church), I spent the rest of the day walking around looking for places that might be open and walking along the river
(Main). They had sideshows and a live broadcast of the world cup final by the river, so there was a lot of packing up of tents and stalls and stages etc going on.

Shades of Terry Pratchett Dwarves, I also found a Hammer museum! It was above a shoe shop not far from my hotel.

At 1800 Sabine met me and we went for more walks to the Alte Oper (Old Opera House) through some gardens and to a new skyscraper called the Main Tower (I don't think it is the "most important" tower, I think it is named after the river).

We went for more walks along the river then we went to FF university to see if we could use the observatory. Sabine has the keys but they was no one to ask and we didn't want to use the observatory without permission, so Sabine will ask today. So we might be able to sneak in tonight and use their telescopes!

We went to a little village part of FF called Alt Ginnheim and had tea there. Although it was a German restaurant it only seemed to serve Chekoslovakian or "international" food. So I had a meat patty thing, I can't remember the name of. Because it was so warm we sat in the garden (along with most of the patrons).

It has been 30+ here.

11/7/2006 - Frankfurt More

Weather has been quite good so far, 30-32 degrees which is warm in the sun but where ever there is a breeze it is quite cool. Have been drinking a lot, I was on my feet pretty much non stop for 14 hours yesterday. Was on top of the second tallest building in FF and the local weather man was doing his live broadcast yesterday evening.

Sabine has the keys to the FF uni observatory, hopefully we will be able to sneak in there and mess with their telescopes tonight! Full moon rises at about 2145, and the light pollution is so bad that this is probably the only thing worth viewing although some of the bigger planets may be possible.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

10/7/2006 - FF Uni

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10/7/2006 - Frankfurt Still

Got up pretty early this morning and wandered around the place looking at the rail station for the car hire place. They hadn't opened yet.
Accosted by some people shouting out 'Italia'. Apparently there was a football
match or something last night :)
Saw some fireworks from my hotel window but I was too tired to
go out, still on Australian time a bit.
I will do some museum visiting today and maybe have tea with
Sabine tonight.
Just out interest, my hotel ia a new one near the main
railway station (Hauptbahnhoff) but this whole area was/is notorious as a redlight district. I think those sorts of business are being slowly closed out as the area is getting progressively businessised!

Monday, July 10, 2006

9/7/2006 Arrive in Frankfurt

In FF at an internet cafe now. The hotel I booked because
they said they had wireless internet. Now I find it is
broken, so NBG.

It is quite warm here about 1530 local time and about
midnight Sunday in Australia. I got to the hotel and had a shower
and slept for another hour or so and I feel quite reasonable
now. I got some good sleep on the plane which helped a lot,
normally it is near impossible. The old granny next to me
was from Brisbane on her way to London for a nursing
conference, she was some sort of teacher from a Qld uni.

Resting for the remainder of the day and will look around FF
properly in the next few days. Then off to France, but I will
stay at a couple of places on the way. Most likely Freiberg.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

8/7/2006 - Goethes House

8/7/2006 - On my way again

Landed at Changi (Singapore)
Hot and humid.
Couldn't see anything from the plane cos the air was somisty and murky.
Spent a long time finding my transfer point to catch the KLMflight. Changi is Bigger than Kuala Lumpur but it is all one straight line (not in a ring like KL) so it takes about 20+ minutes to walk from one end to the other.
I will be leaving again in about 2 hours for Amsterdam, then a short flight to Frankfurt. I will be in FF 10am Sunday their time (about 1900 SA time)

I saw "Pink Panther" on the flight. The place that was
supposed to be Cluseau's house was down the road from the
MIJE from my 2005 trip!
In one shot you can clearly see it and the chapel that
was across the road. Coincidences abound!