Tag Archives: travel

Postcard from the Dragon’s Back and Shek O, Hong Kong: another side of the island


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Hello from Hong Kong! I’m here for a few days on my way back to Italy from Australia, and it has been an excellent stop over. While here, I have been following a new year diet of large meals plus multiple snacks every day (diiiiiim suuuuuum) but today I temporarily tore myself away from the food to go hiking.

Yes, hiking in Hong Kong. I didn’t realize you could do that, either.

The Dragon’s Back ridge is on the eastern end of Hong Kong island, and the hiking trail that runs across it is super popular, for good reason. On a clearer day, you’d get views across to the massive apartment buildings of Kowloon, but even on a hazy day like today I saw smaller islands dotting the bay, quiet beaches and granite boulders. (I also saw a couple wearing broad-brimmed sun hats walking the opposite direction to me, and I couldn’t resist saying “hi” to them, knowing exactly what accent they’d reply with; it’s pretty easy to spot Australians from a distance once you know the tells.)

At the southern end of the trail, I hopped on the bus to Shek O, a beachside town that at this time of year was mostly host to couples taking engagment and wedding photos next to the ocean swirling against the shore.

PS: More postcards from


Practial notes for future reference: I followed these very useful directions to walk the trail north to south, starting at Chai Wan MTR station. The only thing I would add is that the walk along the road after you’ve left the cemetery isn’t looooong but the trail head isn’t quite as close as I would have guessed — you can’t miss the trailhead though, so just keep walking.

The trail over the ridge is quite exposed to sun, you’ll want to wear sunscreen and carry plenty of water. There’s nowhere on trail to get water. I was there on a warm winter’s day and I wish I’d brought a full litre of water rather than 500 ml.

I found myself walking against the flow of traffic on trail, not sure if that was because of my timing or because more people start at the southern end and walk northwards. I did the trail on a Monday, it was certainly populated, but not ridiculously so. The weekend might be a different matter…

When you get to the southern end of the trail, there are bus stops for buses to Shek O and Shau Kei Wan MTR station. While Shek O is within walking distance of the southern trailhead, it’s along a winding road without shoulders much of the way so you’re better off catching a bus.

A photo a day in December: days 26-31


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Happy new year! I am chilling out at my parent’s house, having stayed up until 2 last night and then driven the 400-ish km from Albany to Perth today — in fairness, I only drove half of that, but at any rate I am cactus. Also, I never got around to taking a photo on the 27th, so I only have 5 photos to finish off the photo a day  challenge…

  • Perth skyline. I would love to know what the story is about the vacant block I took the photo from: it’s been empty since I was a kid but it must be worth an absolute fortune;
  • A paperbark tree near Ocean Beach in Denmark;
  • Rubbish bin, park bench, and very bright shed in Kojonup;
  • Rocks and the ocean at Cosy Corner beach, near Albany;
  • Albany itself — or at least, Middleton beach.

So there we have my 30 photos in 31 days. Actually, I took 213 photos in 31 days, most of those with the hope of getting a good shot to post here. (And, ok, some dorky selfies.) I definitely wouldn’t have taken so many photos if I weren’t challenging myself like this (neurotic over-achievers represent!) and I definitely got some decent shots I wouldn’t otherwise have, so I’m calling this photo-a-day malarky a success.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

Postcard from Dijon

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

I was in Dijon in October for a conference. All I knew about the city before I went was the story from some friends about how they’d been on a roadtrip in France and ended up spending the night in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of Dijon, where instead of a reception desk you were supposed to collect your keys via some kind of vending machine arrangement(!) and the room had bunk beds(!!) (If I’m remembering their stories correctly, this was also the trip they camped on the nature strip in a supermarket carpark in the north of France, so their time in Dijon was actually pretty luxurious.)

While it’s fair to say I went to Dijon with zero expectations, what I discovered there was a fascinating mix of gothic and renaissance buildings. And unlike many towns where the historical centre is a few streets surrounded by 1960s concrete blocks, Dijon came through WW2 with little damage to its buildings and the centre is large and well-preserved, perfect for wandering around on a sunny autumn afternoon.

PS: More postcards from


Practical information for future reference: Dijon is 2 hours by regional train from Lyon, which is a major transport hub (from Turin I travelled via Lyon), or 1.5 hours by TGV from Paris.

Taxidermy boar wearing sunglasses

I went to Salone del Gusto and the only photo I got was this taxidermy boar wearing sunglasses. (I am such a bad blogger.)

My extremely glamorous expat life right now is more like my extremely busy life, so it might be a while before I write a coherent narrative blogpost again. Also, I am a terrible blogger anyway — Thursday evening I spent a couple of hours wandering through Salone del Gusto, an internationally-famous food show (aka obviously a good blog topic, slap bang in the middle of my “Turin life/food/things I do as an expat but wouldn’t have done back in Australia” niche) but I was too focused on free samples of cheese and booze to take any notes or photos for a blog post.

(I wrote about Salone 2 years ago, but this year they’ve moved it from the ugly horrible exhibition centre in Lingotto to outdoors in the centre of Turin, which is definitely a nicer setting. If you’re in Turin this weekend, you should go!)

For now, some notes on the rest of my life…

While every season is food season in Italy, autumn is even more food season. A couple of Sundays ago was our traditional pilgrimage to Asti for the Festival delle Sagre, a huge festival of Piedmontese food. Imagine an open space dotted with stalls, each representing a village in the area and selling one or two of that village’s specialties, plus wine at 50 cents/glass. And then throw in a Ferris wheel (why not), folk dancing demonstrations, and thousands of happy Italians with paper plates in their hands and wine in tumblers in holders around their necks.

WINE HOLDER

WINE HOLDER. Genius.

This is the third year in a row I’ve been. Traditions have started to form, like starting the trip with friciula (fresh fried bread-y-pastry-y with lardo) from Mombercelli. “You reckon the friciula stand is in the same place this year?” “Come on, what do you think? We’re in Piemonte.”

(The friciula stand is near the centre of the festival grounds, as it always has been and always will be.)

Meanwhile, Facebook’s On This Day strikes again: a couple of days after the festival it reminded me of photos from the first time I went, 2 years ago. Of the group that went then, only 2 of us were there this year, because everyone else has since left the country. (Come back guys!!)


Two weeks ago, I had the bright idea to get back into running for stress-relief. No tracking distances or times, no pushing myself, just getting out there in the autumn evenings for fresh air and feeling less like a brain in a jar.

In those two weeks, I have already started noting distances run, decided it would be cool to work up to running 10 km comfortably in time for my birthday in November, and googled a bunch of 10k training plans… ZOE, NO.


But maybe I am getting better at relaxing? Earlier this month I went to the beach with some friends and actually enjoyed it rather than getting there, going for a swim, then drying off and going “uh, can we go do smething now?”

Beach near Finale Liguria

Possibly the secret was that these friends have two small children and I can attest the beach is much more fun if it’s socially acceptable for you to build over-engineered sand castles and collect a lifetime supply of mildy-interesting rocks. (Oh wow, that is a brown rock, isn’t it? Shall I put it with the other brown ones?)

(Practical note for future reference: we went to the private beach of Hotel del Golfo in Finale Liguria — the big advantage being that you can throw money at your problems and pay for parking, rather than drive up and down the Ligurian coast for hours looking for a spot. There’s a patch of public sand on the same beach as the private section, so you don’t actually have to pay for a chair if you prefer to bring your own. Parking/beach use is open to non-guests according to availability.)

Postcard from Gran Bosco di Salbertrand: a human landscape in the Alps

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)

I’d only been back in Turin a few days before I realized I needed to get out and walk… again. So last Saturday, a few of us took the train up to Parco Naturale del Gran Bosco di Salbertrand in Susa Valley.

This was the first time I’d organized a hike myself, and I’d been careful about choosing a nice route for the group: it featured a rifugio near the top, and several options so we could take the less steep path on the way down to save our knees and ankles. Unfortunately my map didn’t have full topographic information and it turns out that just because a path is twice as long, it doesn’t have to be half as steep a descent. It can be gently uphill for a substantial distance and then drop precipitously into the valley on a track covered in pine cones that act as rollers under your feet. (Sorry guys!!!)

When we weren’t slipping and sliding and cursing our way down the side of Susa Valley, we had a walk through a pine forest in the morning light, past old stone walls and ruins of buildings that we debated about (were they houses, or cow sheds, or..?). We picked lavender and mint that was growing beside the path. We saw cows — and a marmot, who was sadly uninterested in B’s offer of lifelong friendship. It was a very human landscape, with all its signs of human history — apparently, timber from these woods was used in the construction of the Superga Basilica in Turin. It was also a very modern human landscape, with the constant hum of the highway below us.

We got back to Turin that evening tired and hungry and coated with a fine layer of dust.

PS: More postcards from


Practical information for future reference: You can get to Gran Bosco di Salbertrand without a car — take the train from Turin to Salbertrand (altitude 1000m) on the Bardonecchia line, it runs hourly, takes about an hour and costs 5.75 euro each way. From there, there are all sorts of walks you can take. I used this map, be warned that although it gives altitudes of landmarks it doesn’t have contour lines. We took the GTA route up to Rifugio Daniel Arlaud (altitude 1770m) and then on to Le Selle (altitude 2000m), which is a cluster of agricultural buildings, but also a great viewpoint for the valley. We followed the (closed to cars) road down and then took route 2, which was very steep and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you enjoy that sort of thing.

It was quite dry in late August, and if I did this walk again I’d do it earlier in the summer with the hope of seeing green meadows rather than brown. (It was also quite warm, but much of the route is shaded.)

Camel Estuary, Cornwall

Treyarnon Bay to Padstow on the South West Coast Path

This August, I walked 66 miles (110 km) from St Ives to Padstow on the west coast of Cornwall, over 5 and a half days. This is part 6 — go back to part 5 (Newquay to Treyarnon Bay).

Treyarnon Bay to Padstow was my final walking day. I went to bed the night before with trepidation about the weather — for several days, everyone I’d spoken to had commented on how nice the weather had been, and how “Monday’s supposed to be really hot, like 30 degrees!” Great news for beach-goers, less appealing if you’re walking 11 miles (18 km) in full sun. Continue reading

Watergate Beach, Newquay

Newquay to Treyarnon Bay on the South West Coast Path

This August, I walked 66 miles (110 km) from St Ives to Padstow on the west coast of Cornwall, over 5 and a half days. This is day 5 — go back to day 4 (St Agnes to Newquay).

Remarkably, I wasn’t sore at all when I got up in the morning, even after my long day the day before. Over a breakfast, I chatted with my B&B landlady, about her job doing night shift in a dementia care facility, and her four dogs that her husband was out walking, and how Perranporth used to have a really great New Age shop that she liked but now all the coastal villages were becoming nothing but surf shops and cafes. I knew what she meant — on my walk, I’d been struggling to even find lunch options each day that didn’t involve sitting in and paying 7 pounds for a sandwich with too many different ingredients. Continue reading

Art on Perran Beach, Cornwall

St Agnes to Newquay on the South West Coast Path

This August, I walked 66 miles (110 km) from St Ives to Padstow on the west coast of Cornwall, over 5 and a half days. This is part 4 of the walk — go back to part 3 (Portreath to St Agnes).

It was 4.30 pm, the sun was hot on my face, my pack straps were chafing my arms, my knees were sore, and I had never not been walking this &*%! coast path. I had just come round a head and I could see Fistral Beach laid out before me, replete with a surfing competition and thousands of spectators on the sand and nearby grass. I still had to get past it all and to the opposite side of Newquay, the largest town in the area. Well then.

This was my longest day, with 16.5 miles (26.5 km) the official path distance from Trevaunance Cove to Newquay Station. “Where are you walking today?” the landlady at my B&B had asked. “Newquay? Goodness. That’s far.”

Continue reading

Cornwall

Portreath to St Agnes on the South West Coast Path

This August, I walked 66 miles (110 km) from St Ives to Padstow on the west coast of Cornwall, over 5 and a half days. This is day 3 of the walk — Go back to day 2 (Lelant to Portreath).

I left Portreath and went back to the clifftops via the road since the foot path from the harbour was closed due to landslip risk. My legs were a little stiff, but the steady climb got me moving again. Most of the way to Porthtowan, the next village, I walked in the space between fenced off land and the cliff edges, and was constrained to a single path through the heather. If I looked to the fence on my right I felt hemmed in, but the ocean was always open on my left.

Once up on the cliffs, the walk to Porthtowan was flat, with just a single dip where a stream emptied out to the ocean. It was still fairly early and I hadn’t seen anyone all morning, so at the bottom of the dip where the prickly heather and gorse finally gave way to grass I ducked into as hidden a corner as I could find — but still rather open — to have a pee. (No bushes to go behind!) Of course, it was just after this that I saw an oncoming walker at the top of the other side of the dip, and I was glad of my timing. Continue reading

Cliffs in Cornwall

Lelant to Portreath on the South West Coast Path

This August, I walked 66 miles (110 km) from St Ives to Padstow on the west coast of Cornwall, over 5 and a half days. This is day 2 of the walk — go back to day 1 (St Ives to Lelant).

“I’m spending 5 and a half days walking from here to Padstow,” I told my dorm mate at the hostel in St Ives, on the west coast of Cornwall.
“For charity?”
“Nah, just for fun,” I replied.
“Yeah, it’s important to do these sorts of things because you want to, isn’t it?”

If I’m honest, I was also walking 110 km along the Cornish coast to see if I could. I’ve done some solo day walks over the years, but the last overnight trip I did was in high school in 1999. Last summer I didn’t walk at all, put off by the occasional dizzy spell I’d still get in the months after my accident. This summer I’ve been hiking again, but always with friends. Could I set my own pace? Could I stay motivated all day? Could I walk 20 km then get up the next day and do it again? Continue reading