Many years ago my parents visited Warwick Castle during a holiday in the UK. Being quite young and obsessed with knights and castles, I was absolutely fascinated by their stories of the visit. So coming over to a conference at the University of Warwick, the first thing that I added to my sight-seeing list was this nearby castle.
I am at the University of Warwick, in my residence room, trying not to go to sleep just yet. I can fight the jet-lag a bit longer (and thus hopefully win sooner), so let me tell you about a number of pleasant surprises that spiced up my trip from Canberra over the last 45 hours.
I took the coach from Canberra to Charles Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney (the fare of merely $15 was quite pleasant in its own right), and arrived with plenty of time to spare. I went up to the “Viewing Deck” and was excited to see a Qantas Airbus A380 for my first time. An hour or so later, as I was walking down the terminal to find my gate, I saw a Singapore Airlines A380 taxi in to the terminal. I was disappointed to have missed its landing (unless it had simply been parked somewhere), but these giant planes are still new enough for a sighting to be interesting.
My flight to Hong Kong was smooth and uneventful except for the bad local weather that delayed our landing by 20 minutes. I was on an Airbus A330, and thoughts of the recent Air France tragedy made me somewhat somber as we flew a holding pattern through the clouds. I was glad for the unremarkableness of our flight.
Most of my (shortened) transit time in Hong Kong was taken up with walking the length of the terminal back to gate 2. This might perhaps be an exaggeration, but it certainly is an enormous terminal building! My flight to London Heathrow was aboard a Boeing 747, and I was lucky enough to be sitting in the first row behind a bulkhead. The extra leg room was very pleasant indeed.
I switched on my mobile phone after landing, and was delighted to get a call from Clansi within minutes of stepping off the plane. It’s my first use of international roaming, and having it work so well is very convenient.
After meeting my supervisor (who was on a different flight that came in to a different terminal at Heathrow), I was very surprised to bump in to a friend from Sydney. Grenville Kent was just as startled to see me, and we had a brief chat about the (separate) conferences that we are here for. This chance encounter was so amazingly unlikely that it gave me quite a buzz.
But the greatest serendipity happened at lunch today. On the way from Heathrow to Warwick we stopped in at Oxford to visit some colleagues and have a look in their laboratory. Having had very early breakfasts on our planes, we decided to find some lunch. A number of restaurants and cafes failed to capture our attention, and so we headed back towards the “Lamb and Flag” (which we had passed earlier in our wanderings) for a pub lunch. On the way, however, we saw the “Eagle and Child” and were enticed by their fish-and-chips deal.
This turned out to be the very same Eagle and Child that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien enjoyed often with “The Inklings”! I was so glad that we stumbled upon it. Retrospectively, there are probably few things in Oxford that I would have been more interested in seeing.
I’ve finally had the chance to tweak and upload some photos of my recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There was quite significant tweaking required for the underwater photos, to try and correct for the blue colour cast.
On the weekend, Pathfinders from across SNSW met at 3 Mile Dam for their annual “Expedition”. The Expedition is a hiking event, and there are 3 grades. Clansi and I were leaders for a group of girls doing A-grade, the hardest level. I carried my camera and gps receiver, and so you can experience the hike through an interactive map of our journey below.
After leaving Canberra in the late afternoon, we arrived at Registration after dark on Friday night. We quickly donned our packs, received our instructions and started hiking in to 4 Mile Hut. Being dark meant that we missed out on the views, but it did help avoid sunburn. After a few hours hiking we found the campsite and went straight to bed.
Saturday morning was crisp and clear, and we had a fairly relaxed start. After eating exotic breakfasts and packing up our gear, we walked down to a small waterfall north of the hut. Our primary destination for the day was Tabletop Mountain, which we summitted mid-afternoon. After enjoying the views, we continued on to set up camp near Broken Dam Hut. Finding water was a bit of a challenge, but after a short walk we got to a nice little waterfall.
On Sunday we set off on a cross-country short-cut back to the track. The girls navigated very well, and we found the track easily. After retracing our path to Mount Selwyn skifields, we took a slightly different route back to registration. It was not a particularly strenuous weekend, but it was heaps of fun.
On Saturday night Canberra enjoyed the 21st annual Skyfire fireworks show. This event is sponsored by Canberra’s 104.7 FM radio station, and is held on Lake Burley Griffin in the middle of Canbera. The fireworks show lasted for 21 minutes, and it was a great opportunity to take some photos.
We headed down to the Rond Terraces (the grass at the bottom of Anzac Parade) with heaps of friends, and enjoyed a picnic while some Navy guys showed off in a helicopter. Just like while waiting for the Australia Day fireworks, the Army’s Red Berret precision skydivers did a jump. Instead of landing in the lake, this time they touched down right on the shore in front of the crowd.
This morning Clansi and I joined hundreds of other cyclists on the 25 km Big Canberra Bike Ride. The weather was overcast but clear and dry, and the temperature was typical Canberra autumn: perfect for cycling!
We rode down to the “Rond Terraces” on the north shore of Lake Burley Griffin, where the ride started. It headed north up through the central eastern suburbs of Canberra, and turned around at Dickson. We made good speed down Northbourne avenue and over to the south side of the Lake. After circling around and climbing part way up Red Hill behind Parliament House, we crossed back over the lake on Kings Bridge and finished at the start point. By the time Clansi and I had ridden home, we had done just a bit more than 30 km.
It was a fun event, and a bit of good exercise. Additionally, it was a fantastic occasion for me to try out my new geotagging tricks.
Clansi and I went down to the snow a week ago on Sunday for what will probably be our last skiing day for this season. The weather was spectacular, with no wind and extensive visibility; in fact, the sun was perhaps a bit too bright for the softening snow. By mid afternoon there were shiny patches of slush in places heralding the arrival of spring.
For a bit of fun, I took my GPS receiver with me tucked into the elastic band of my goggles (I have found that the device sometimes struggles to get good signals when it is in a pocket). I wasn’t afraid of getting lost, but the experimental scientist part of me tends to get excited about the datalogging capabilities of my GPS receiver. I was actually quite surprised at some of the information it recorded; for instance, I was a little unnerved to find that I had been travelling at up to nearly 50 km/h on the snow!
The best bit about GPS is of course being able to see a map of the day’s adventures. Here is an interactive zoomable map showing our entire day’s path colour coded by speed. It is superimposed on the Google aerial imagery, which must have been photographed during the summer.
Corbett (our Bengal Cat) is four and a half months old, and has recently been refining his version of what Bengal owners call “The Zooms”. The name is extremely appropriate, as the activity involves copious amounts of speed. Corbett prefers to cover not only as much distance, but also as much vertical height range as he can in the shortest time possible. This makes our lounge room, where there are couch backrests and windowsills to bounce off, his favourite Zooming environment.
A good Zoom gets Corbett in just the right mood for some impressive antics. He can do a standing jump up to waist height, which is more than double his body length above the ground. He loves the opportunity to rampage in confined spaces, such as underneath our coffee table and inside my uni backpack.
His universally favourite toy is anything made of rustling paper, whether its a snake-like strip or a scrunched up ball. He enjoys all the toys we’ve given him (and quite a few that he’s claimed for himself without our consent); but paper has just the right blend of noisiness, irregular movement, and non-toxicity. An added bonus with paper is that it is just so much fun to tear apart and destroy!
Here are a few photos of Corbett that manage to capture some of the antics that he has been up to lately. A few of them also show off his increasingly spectacularly marked coat.
Corbett is now 1.3 kg, which is more than double what he weighed when we brought him to Canberra. Although he is still very small, his growth over the last 2 months has been noticable. He can no longer sit on a lap under the office desk while we work, unless we let our chairs down a bit. He hasn’t quite worked this out for himself, though, and still trys to climb up our shins.
Another indication that he is growing quickly is the confidence that he has gained about his favourite perch – the human shoulder. He is also a lot more confident about nooks and crannies around the house, and loves ferreting in the scrap paper bin. Pleasantly, he is becomming more and more content to sit on the backrest of the couch and absorb sunlight streaming in the window.
There is no chance, however, of Corbett growing out of his cuteness anytime soon. Enjoy these photos.
As if the fireworks and a daytrip to Cooranbong for Ben and Becky’s wedding were not enough to fill the long weekend, Clansi and I went abseiling with some fellow Pathfinder staff yesterday afternoon. We went to Kambah Rocks, just to the west of Canberra on the Murrumbidgee River, and the location was beautiful and peaceful.