Thursday, July 13, 2017

tajikistan, moscow, azerbaijan, georgia and armenia trip

We've been on the road since the crack today and have only just arrived in Qalai Khum which is where the 'J' of Tajikistan is on the map.

Afghanistan is 150 metres away from this homestay I am staying in tonight.

I am sitting on the balcony over a raging torrent! Cant include scenic pix as I left the little doolacky thingy that transfers pix from my camera to tablet at home. So am including one I took with the tablet.

We finished a gruelling hike in the Fann Mountains for 6 days and on the day we had to climb 930 metres up to the 3,800m pass and 1,200 m down I had a chest infection and Paul had the trots!! Scenery was stunning though.

The lakes we saw were incredible and we had some all to ourselves.

We follow the Afghan border for about another 5 days. Scenery is stunning, roads a total horror, food ghastly! We just left Dushanbe the capital where we had a bit of lux in a smart hotel. Was 40 deg the day we got there and predicted 45 the day we left.

Journey from Sydney a nightmare - late leaving Sydney, delayed at our first stop Huan Zhou so missed our connection from Beijing to Novosibirsk. In Beijing the airline managed to get us on another flight to Novo 24 hours later but the Novo to Dushanbe flights were all full for the next 7 days. They said would we like to fly to Khujand, the 2nd largest city in Tajikistan. We didnt know where it was but a quick look at ihe map showed us it was a few hours from our trekking region so we said yes.Turned out ok as our trekking company was actually based in Khujand and it saved them a trip down to Dushanbe to meet us. But we missed 2 days resting from the flight in Dushanbe and began trekking the next day.We are knackeredbut having a ball.

I will not be blogging again until I get home as it will be a bit dull with no pix. So will update mid August.

Ciao 4 now.

Monday, October 3, 2016

a different journey

Well no overseas birthday AGAIN this year!!

But at least I did celebrate in a special way. No travelling in the conventional sense - but I am on a current journey lasting several years and that is building my own house.

I bought 25 acres ex farmland south west of Sydney (2 hrs drive) a few years ago. I then set about designing a house using recycled shipping containers. I have to add in 2010 when I began the planning I had never heard of such a thing. Now container houses are all over the internet.

Talk about tapping the zeitgest.

Apart from the design I also drew all of the architectural plans and submitted all of the Council building requirements. As well as the building plans there were many other plans and documents needed to obtain my building permission. I was able to do all of these except for the engineering plans myself.

I also intend to do all of the actual building myself where permitted (which is just about everything except plumbing and electrical which legally requires certified trades.)

The design:

 The container layout within the design:

House plan:

It is a simple design, 2 bedrooms and no en suite (gasp!!!!)

Open plan with major insulation on the outside of the containers so as not to reduce interior space. The only single width container rooms are the guest bedroom (wide enough for a double bed and 2 side tables) and the 2 way bathroom which will be 2.5 times the size of my current 2 bed rental!

The land:

This is a view to the north.

It is by far the nicest aspect - and fortunately the direction my large 2.1sq.m windows along the front of the house face. They will capture the low winter sun and let the heat into the house for passive solar heating. In summer, the sun is high enough so that the awning stops the sun entering the house.

The veggie garden:

My friend Jana watering the garden during last summer.

I established a fenced 60sq.m plot by Spring last year with a 1000L raised water tank at one end. (This I fill from my dam and then gravity feed the water to the veggies.)

I grew rhubarb, butternut pumpkins, capsicums, rocket, basil, garlic, chives, mint, strawberries, radishes, beetroots, and spinach. As I am not living on site I had to have veggies hardy enough to last up to 5 or 6 days without watering.

Luckily I had no losses throughout one of the driest summers in years.

We have just finished planting out the next Spring veggies: all the above veggies again plus chilies, squash, red onions, eggplant and shallots.

Current stage of house:

Back deck started with roof joists and temp supports visible.

View through 'kitchen window' into lounge/dining.

Ceiling joists all finished and about to start internal framing. Windows and doors all ready idly waiting for this framing before they can be put in.

My roof trusses have arrived and I just have to learn how to erect a roof before I start putting them up!

That is the story of this build - every step along the way needs to be researched before I begin.

It is such a massive challenge that if I try and encompass it all in my head at once my brain will explode! In many ways this adventure is very much like doing the PhD. Having done that 10 years ago has been a great help in the planning and execution of this build. The steps I have been going through have been almost the same.

Finishing date? When I move in!! 

And so - my birthday yesterday was spent on my land in the shell of my partially built house and was as every bit as special as having the celebration on top of Kilimanjaro, on the Inca trail at Macchu Picchu, sitting on the Great Pyramid in Cairo or Scuba diving in Fiji!

The Musical Birthday Candle Ritual (yet again):

Cutting the birthday cake:

If interested in my build you can follow my building blog HERE

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

coastal getaway

As an endless summer rolls along Paul and I decided to head to the coast to catch some cooling sea breezes.

Paul had never been to the the Shoalhaven part of the NSW coast so we set off early Saturday morning from Goulburn and drove to the coast via Fitzroy Falls which is a little South East of Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands.

Fitzroy Falls (low on water after a dry summer):



Heading through Kangaroo Valley and across Hampden Bridge:

We stopped at the town of Berry which is about 6kms from the coast, Saturday mid morning and it was exactly like Paddington on a Saturday. Lots of smart deli's, upmarket cafes and twee trinket stores. And VERY busy.

A brisk walk of the main street and we left Berry to check in at our hotel 20 minutes away to the South West.

This whole region is very expensive and accomodation is a little ridiculous in my opinion. Most of the small towns in the region require you to book at least two nights if staying  over the weekend.

Some of the B&B's charge upwards of $400 for a night. We settled for a hotel in Nowra which was just about the cheapest room we could find at $110 for the Saturday night.

A bleak mid sized city (pop. just over 35,000) with little in terms of attractions (wait for the flood of incensed Nowrarites...) - we asked a local merchant what were the top three things to see in Nowra and she said: "Kangaroo Valley, Berry and Harris Scarfe (the store she worked in).

The hotel was basic (what I'm used to) and at least it had a pool.

After checking in we drove to the coast to a little fishing hamlet called Greenwell Point where we were entertained by the pelicans and corellas.

Back to the hotel by 6ish and then we headed off to Nowra for dinner. And of all places we ended up at the Nowra Bowlo. (Bowling Club). A first for me!! Disappointment was high on the menu and it lived up to all expectations.

Early the next morning we set off for Jervis Bay and particularly Hyams Beach.

I'd been to Hyams Beach several times before. The last time was with three other mates on our motorbikes down from Sydney for a days ride. When we arrived at Hyams Beach (midweek) it was deserted and as we walked along the water's edge on the pristine white sands we were rewarded with a pod of dolphins swimming alongside of us less than two metres from shore.

This visit on a hot Sunday promised to be a flotilla of bare bodies crammed side by side filling the sands from water to woods.

But I was very pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was.

Hyams Beach:

When we'd had our fill of sun,sea and surf we set off for Canberra via some back country roads through thick native forests and past tiny country villages with names such as Sassafras, Nerriga, Wog Wog and Tomboye.

We stopped for lunch at Bungendore where we once again visited the Woodworks Gallery (a must see if going there) and then popped into the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Australia in Canberra for some kultur before heading home.

Outside the NGA:

Back in Goulburn and the heat continues.

Monday, October 5, 2015

subterranean sojourn

No overseas birthday this year - the first for 10 years! I need to focus on building my shipping container house.

But as the day drew near I decided I couldn't bear to stay at home so we decided to head to Wombeyan Caves just over an hour from here.

During the past couple of years that I've been in Goulburn I have made many trips around the countryside to various little country towns and places of interest but had not headed directly North.

So Paul came over and we both set off to a small old town called Taralga about 50kms away in an area known as the 'Richlands' due to the fertile soils in the region.

Taralga dates from the early 1800's and contains some lovely old buildings.

We stayed overnight at the Argyle Inn (1875), a basic pub hotel with a nice wide upstairs verandah where we sat in the evening while Paul had his beers.

It looks out over the town and across to the windfarm windmills on the adjoining ridge.

Birthday brekkers: Vegemite on toast and a long black:

The next morning we set off early to the caves, a further hours drive two thirds of which was dirt road.

The caves are quite small and modest compared to some of the other cave systems (such as Jenolan Caves -  believed to be part of the same Karst Limestone geological layer about 120kms further North) but still worthy of a visit.

We restricted ourselves to just a couple of the caves - one guided and the other self guided. The former was the most interesting and unfortunately photos do no justice to them whatsoever!

There was also some very friendly wildlife in the grounds of the caves entrance.

King Parrot:

Mother and child:

Paul sleeping with the roos:

And it wouldn't be a birthday without the birthday candle ritual!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Selection of details from last trip.
(Click to enlarge)

Monday, November 3, 2014



A recap of some dome interiors from the last trip.
(click to enlarge)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

more mesmerising mirror mayhem

Our last day in Iran and we were down to our last mosque!

This one was called Sayyed Alaeddin Hossein Mosque (or The Jelly Mosque as I preferred to call it).

Paul had ducked into it a couple of days ago while I was back at the hotel. He insisted I come with him today to see it.

It was spectacular.

(Make sure you click on the photos - they deserve to be seen full sized!)

While I was wandering around the mosque I found a door open towards the back of the building and stepped inside.

I found myself in the 'school' part of the mosque where religious students spend 30 hours a week studying the Koran. This was another stunning display of mirrored mosaics.

As my last post for this trip I have to say Iran was a wonderful place to visit. Not only did I feel safer there than just about anywhere else in the world, the people were the friendliest I have ever met in all of the 85 countries I have visited.

Do yourself a favour - go there!