LandLopers http://landlopers.com Wed, 23 Jul 2014 04:55:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eating My Way Along The Stellenbosch Wine Routes, South Africahttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/stellenbosch-food/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/stellenbosch-food/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 04:55:10 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27569 Visit any one of the great wine regions in the world and you’ll usually find stunning food to accompany those varietals. Wine and great food are inextricably intertwined, the two … Read More

The post Eating My Way Along The Stellenbosch Wine Routes, South Africa appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Food Stellenbosch South Africa

Visit any one of the great wine regions in the world and you’ll usually find stunning food to accompany those varietals. Wine and great food are inextricably intertwined, the two dependent on each other to help balance flavors, smells and the overall experience. Stellenbosch, one of the premier wine regions in South Africa, is no exception and during my visit to this beautiful area I enjoyed many meals and many different styles of culinary expertise. Some of my favorite food experiences though fall into a few distinct categories.

Fine Dining

If it’s creative and delicious food served in an atmosphere of quiet elegance, you are spoiled for choice in Stellenbosch. Many of the wine estates have cafes or full restaurants on site, pairing their famous wines with expertly crafted cuisine. While many fine dining experiences were enjoyable, two in particular stand out for me personally.

Waterkloof

Waterkloof

Perched on a cliff high above the surrounding valley is The Restaurant at Waterkloof, the modern foodie showcase for Waterfloof Wines. Enclosed by a wall of glass, the views are worth the trip alone, but so is the culinary magic that Chef Gregory Czarnecki creates in his open kitchen. A world traveler at heart, Chef Czarnecki uses his experience with foreign cultures to create a fine but not pretentious dining experience. Over the course of a long lunch my friends and I enjoyed around 8 courses or so, each seemingly more amazing than the ones previous. While most guests opt for a more manageable meal, everything is prepared with care and attention to detail; and of course with the succulent Waterkloof wines in mind.

Tokara, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Tokara

Another stand out wine estate in terms of food is Tokara Restaurant with its fine dining restaurant led by the Zen master of South Africa cuisine, Chef Richard Carstens. Just like Waterkloof, the views are amazing; this time of vineyards and mountains instead of valleys and the sea. Known as South Africa’s greatest proponent of molecular gastronomy, Chef Carstens prefers not to be pigeonholed, saying his style is always changing and evolving. The food lived up to the chef’s vaunted reputation, from delicate starters to a mushroom encrusted steak that had us begging for more. Again, the rich combination of views, great food and amazing wines makes this one of the top dining experiences in the region.

Comfort Food

While I enjoy the expertise required to craft an amazing fine dining experience, my travel heart lies with locally prepared comfort foods. Every region in the world has their version of foods that speak to the soul, whether it’s BBQ in the U.S. or mango and sticky rice in Southeast Asia, the experiences are important to really understand the local culture. That is of course also true in South Africa and in Stellenbosch I expanded my South African comfort food vocabulary with a few delicious meals.

Snacks in South African are plentiful and in the winelands these tasty nibbles are naturally elevated, but only slightly. If the country has a national snack food, it has to be biltong. A cured meat that we Americans might liken to jerky, but which is actually in a category all of its own. At the Waterford Estate, wine pros match this traditional snack along some of their lighter varietals, like the crisp Sauvingon Blanc. The folks who manage the Warwick Wine Safari on their estate combine cured meats along with locally made cheeses and jams for the perfect Stellenbosch charcuterie plate to accompany their tasty wines and fabulous views of the surrounding valleys.

Comfort food is more than snack food though, it’s also the rich and hearty meals found around Stellenbosch. There’s nothing better than a traditional South African braai, a meal every visitor must be exposed to at least once. More than just an African version of grilling, it’s about the companionship as well. Sure, there are roasting meats on the open grill, along with sides and other delicious morsels, but a proper braai is also teeming with friends and family creating a social event.

Kayamandi Township Stellenbosch

Local Food Experiences

One of my favorite travel experiences is to learn as much as I can about local food cultures, either through a tour or hands on cooking lessons. I got both in Stellenbosch when I joined the fine folks at Bites and Sites Food Tours not once, but twice. I love the concept behind this company; their mission is to help unlock the secrets behind local food culture with the help of their expert guides. They offer a variety of experiences, including Cape Malay Cooking and the Xhosa lunch in Kayamandi township experience.

Cape Malay roti

I experienced Cape Malay food on my first visit to Cape Town when I learned how to cook this unusual style of food at the feet of a local master. This experience is very similar, taking guests into a local home where you learn about the history of this unique-to-South-Africa cuisine and even how to make it yourself. Beautiful rotis, curries and a host of other treats I couldn’t identify but absolutely enjoyed were all on offer. This is a great way to learn about this important food style, and walk away with the tools to recreate it in your own home.

A very special and specific to Stellenbosch food experience was a walk I joined through the Kayamandi township when I learned about Xhosa food by a local resident. Mama Lily has led a fascinating life, from bill collector to purveyor of freshly made pastries and breads. Today she and the Bites and Sites Food Tour folks have joined efforts to share more about her traditional, family recipes and to show newcomers what life in Kayamandi is really like. I knew it would be a special experience, but was shocked at how moved I was by the lunch and walk. It’s a special moment when someone invites you into their home, their kitchen with open arms and a bright smile. This tour is one of those ‘must-do’ experiences for all visitors to Stellenbosch.

Breakfast

Without question, my favorite meal is always breakfast. There’s just so much comfort from these foods, they’re hard not to love. If Stellenbosch does anything well, it’s certainly breakfast. For a weekend brunch, there’s no better place to go than Majeka House. A beautiful hotel, Majeka has an undeniably French influence seen throughout the property, even on its menus. For brunch the huge spread includes delicately prepared Bordeaux-style canelés. One of my favorite treats, this small cake comes out of the kitchen fresh and hot. Truly nothing better; except maybe for Majeka’s homemade energy juices guaranteed to help with everything from low energy to stress.

Majeka House

Schoon de Companje

In the town of Stellenbosch, the local favorite is the newish Schoon de Companje where master baker Fritz Schoon and his family have created a remarkable culinary experience that highlights his doughy creations but in a way you’ve never before seen. If you’re after more than bread, be sure to visit their all-day restaurant which shines especially in the mornings. Well prepared and hearty breakfasts featuring everything from Croque Monsieurs to a traditional bacon and egg sandwich are guaranteed to please just about any palate.

Stellenbosch is a remarkable place to visit for many reasons, from the landscapes to the wines of course. But food is also an important draw and an entire trip could be easily consumed with exploring the rich culinary culture in this beautiful part of South Africa.

Which one of these foods do you want to try first?

 

This campaign was created and sponsored by the Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Destinate in partnership with  iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.

The post Eating My Way Along The Stellenbosch Wine Routes, South Africa appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/stellenbosch-food/feed/ 0
Sunrise Over Napa Valley From A Hot Air Balloonhttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/sunrise-napa-valley/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/sunrise-napa-valley/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 04:50:24 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27624 The post Sunrise Over Napa Valley From A Hot Air Balloon appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
hot air balloon napa

The post Sunrise Over Napa Valley From A Hot Air Balloon appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/22/sunrise-napa-valley/feed/ 0
7 Travel Moments On 7 Continents That Changed My Lifehttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/travel-moments/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/travel-moments/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 04:55:52 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27608 I’m lucky and I know that. Traveling the world has been something I’ve wanted to do since I could walk, and probably even before that. It’s part of my DNA, … Read More

The post 7 Travel Moments On 7 Continents That Changed My Life appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Atlanta, Georgia

I’m lucky and I know that. Traveling the world has been something I’ve wanted to do since I could walk, and probably even before that. It’s part of my DNA, who I am as a person. I’ve been doing some self-reflection lately (shocking, I know) and specifically I’ve been thinking a lot about my travel experiences over the years. There have been many special moments, unique experiences that just weren’t fun but changed me in some way. Either they opened my eyes to a new reality, or gave me the chance to think more about my station in life and the person I want to be. And yes, sometimes there were just fun. Rather than a BuzzFeed style list of cool things to see around the world (Do we really need another one of those?) I wanted to share moments that were important to me, a LoperBuzz post if you will.

1. North America – I often ignore my home continent, and especially my own nation – the U.S. I’ve resolved time and time again to change that, but I always seem to get sidetracked. As the place that started it all for me, so to speak, I do have my fair share of travel memories, but one is more important than the others. In 1996, the Olympics were hosted in Atlanta, Georgia and as a lifelong fan of the Games, I knew I had to find a way to see them in person. I was young though, just 20, but even at that tender age I was determined and never allowed anything to get in my way. Although I’d never really traveled alone before, I decided to suck it up, bought some tickets and drove down to Atlanta to experience the Olympics for myself. The trip was amazing, not just for the Games but for this first experience of traveling, albeit a short distance, by myself. It taught me a lot, but mostly that with planning and determination anything can be accomplished.

Matt Scotland

2. Europe – Ah, my first and still strongest travel love – Europe. There’s nothing quite like traveling around the Old World, from quiet villages in France to the hustle and bustle of large cities like Berlin, Prague and even Zagreb. A lifetime could be spent exploring the nooks and crannies of what I think is one of the most interesting geographical regions on the planet. It’s also important to me on a personal level though. When I was 22, newly graduated from college, I used all of my meager savings and spent a month backpacking around the UK – England and Scotland to be more specific. I’d never done anything like that before. It was my first time backpacking, traveling internationally alone and while I was scared out of my mind, I had never been more excited. It was a lonely month, 30 days with my thoughts as my only companion. Sure, I met folks in hostels and on the road, but I was mostly alone and that was fine with me. I was at a personal crossroads, about to enter graduate school and uncertain about my own future. I also hadn’t come out of the closest yet, and was dealing with that mental torture simultaneously. But the UK cleared my mind. Gone were the thoughts of exams and family woes and in their place a certain mental freshness, a reawakening that I so desperately needed. There’s a lot to be said for solo travel, and that experience forever changed my life.

Wat Arun Bangkok

3. Asia – I love traveling in Asia more than I ever thought I would. From the chaotic streets of Bangkok to the well-organized chaos of Tokyo, the diversity of the region is shocking at times. Rather than a deep and meaningful conversation, or interactions with locals, my favorite moment is one that means something only to me. My partner and I were in Bangkok celebrating his completion of law school and taking the bar exam. It was my first time in that part of the world, and while it was overwhelming at times it was also mesmerizing. One day we were exploring the temple Wat Arun when a sudden downpour erupted, not an odd occurrence in this part of the world. We sought cover under the awning of a side building, waiting for the shower to end. Looking at him there I couldn’t help but smile. There I was, in Bangkok with my partner, enjoying life and having adventures I never thought possible. That may have been one of the first times I understood how very lucky I was, not just for the ability to travel, but for having such special people in my life.

Galapagos Tortoise

4. South America – Although I’ve spent precious little time in South America, the experiences I have had there are meaningful and special to me. In particular, a trip to the Galapagos a few years ago had the unintended consequence of forever changing my life. I had won a sweepstakes, the grand prize a cruise adventure along the Galapagos archipelago. For an animal lover like myself, it was the experience of a lifetime. There is nothing quite like walking through a field dotted with giant tortoises, or swimming practically nose-to-nose with playful sea lions. When I returned home a new spirit of wanderlust was reawakened, I realized how much I enjoyed adventure travel and wanted to share my experiences with as many people as I could. A few months later I started this web site; I firmly believe that trip to the Galapagos was the intellectual impetus for LandLopers. Without it, I still might be stuck in a cubicle not living the life I was meant to live.

Britz Australia

5. Australia – It’s hard not to love Australia. It’s everything we want in a destination; it’s fun, quirky, diverse and adventurous. This massive country is the stuff of daydreams and with good reason. Although I’ve only visited a couple of times, I quickly developed a deep and unabiding love for the country and the fantastically odd people who call it home. It’s also a place that lends itself to meaningful travel experiences. It’s hard not to be reflective when gazing at the foundations of life on planet Earth in Shark Bay or learning about Aboriginal culture that predates all others in the world. For me though, that meaningful moment came during the drive from Alice Springs to Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock. My partner and I were in a 4×4, delicately navigating corrugated dirt roads and stretches made treacherous by shifting sands. One day while driving in the early morning hours, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Like dolphins flying through the water, kangaroos were jumping alongside the truck, hidden in the tall grasses of the Outback. It was a scene plucked from a tourism commercial and I nearly veered off the road into those beautiful creatures from the shock. They soon left our company, but it was then that I properly understood the global addiction to all things Australian. It’s a remarkable continent inherently prone to equally remarkable experiences.

Masiphumelele Township

6. Africa – This is another continent that surprised me. I always expected special moments of personal growth, but what I didn’t anticipate was falling so deeply in love with what is a fundamentally misunderstood part of the world. My heart though belongs to South Africa, a massive country that delights the senses with its beauty, but also warms the soul with its kindness. My moment came while biking around a township near Cape Town. Townships are holdovers from the apartheid era, communities that tend to be poorer and still separated by race. It’s tempting to engage in poverty tourism when visiting, but I learned it’s even more important to leave one’s own mental prejudices behind and instead really look at the communities with eyes wide open. While playing with some kids in a local nursery I realized that while I may have more money and opportunities than they will ever enjoy, they were kids. They were happy and frankly they acted just like kids act in any part of the world. They scrambled and played, cried and laughed – nothing abnormal or odd about them. They weren’t characters out of a Dickens novel, poor orphans begging for porridge. No, they were great kids who just wanted to have a good time. That day taught me that I tend to think from an imperialist point of view. That anyone who doesn’t enjoy a similar background to mine must be suffering in some way. That’s not necessarily true and that travel moment in South Africa taught me the importance of stepping out of my own skin, to ignore my prejudices and really look at new places with eyes wide open.

hike Antarctica

7. Antarctica – If any continent lures travelers with the promise of special moments, it’s Antarctica. Hard to reach, hard to travel around it’s one of the last few truly adventurous trips still available to us in the modern era. And my own trip to Antarctica did indeed deliver those unique moments in spades. Aside from the impossibly cute (and slightly dirty) penguins though, it’s the seemingly impenetrable landscapes that impressed me the most. After hiking up a snowy switchback path to the top of a hill, I was met with one of the most impressive scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The icy waters extended into the horizon and all I could see were vast quantities of rock, ice and water. It seemed to go on forever and I have never felt smaller in my entire life. Standing there on the bottom of the world, it was an important moment to help quantify the immensity of the planet. It’s a fact that we modern travelers tend to forget. In an age when I can hop on a nonstop flight and be in Hong Kong tomorrow, it seems as if the world has never been smaller. But we forget just how massive this beautiful planet is and how many unique experiences there are to be had. We forget about the small inlets and villages forgotten to time. It was an important moment as it put into context what I do now for a living and how it isn’t just part of my life – it IS my life. This quest to seek new answers and discover new things will never end, just as that horizon in Antarctica seemed to have no boundaries.

 

Looking back at this list I see many commonalities. My most important and personal moments over the last 38 years came when experiencing something for a first time. It may have been my first visit to a developing nation or the first time I had traveled alone. That’s why it’s so important to always push our personal travel envelopes; to take every opportunity to do something new and unusual. There is enormous value to being uncomfortable sometimes and indeed I think it’s the only way we can grow as individuals. If that’s not what travel is all about, then I don’t know what is.

What are some of your own special travel moments?

The post 7 Travel Moments On 7 Continents That Changed My Life appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/travel-moments/feed/ 11
Golden Hour Above The Rooftops of Dubrovnik, Croatiahttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/golden-hour-dubrovnik-croatia/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/golden-hour-dubrovnik-croatia/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 04:50:04 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27622 The post Golden Hour Above The Rooftops of Dubrovnik, Croatia appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Dubrovnik, Croatia

The post Golden Hour Above The Rooftops of Dubrovnik, Croatia appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/21/golden-hour-dubrovnik-croatia/feed/ 3
Exploring Croatia’s National Parkshttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/croatia-national-parks/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/croatia-national-parks/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:55:19 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27539 Croatia is known for its beautiful beaches, laid back coastal cities and ancient urban escapes like Split and Dubrovnik. Unless you’re really in the know, however, you may not realize … Read More

The post Exploring Croatia’s National Parks appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Paklenica National Park Croatia

Croatia is known for its beautiful beaches, laid back coastal cities and ancient urban escapes like Split and Dubrovnik. Unless you’re really in the know, however, you may not realize that Croatia has some of the best national parks found anywhere in the world. From craggy mountains that leave rock climbers drooling, to stunning waterfalls, there are some amazing adventures to be had for the outdoor adventurer in us all.

Plitvice Falls National Park

So what makes Plitvice so special in the first place? Well, it’s a series of lakes arranged in cascades. The lakes are the result of several small rivers originally formed from mountain runoff. The lakes flow into one another, separated by natural travertine dams and all following the same general water flow. To stand in the middle of the park is to experience water and its power in a way you may not have before. Throughout Plitvice you are followed by the constant sound of water gurgling, either slowly dripping or in a massive cascading waterfall. You can’t escape the moistness of the park and the verdant green plants surrounding the lakes are a testament to the life-force found here. The lakes are also famous for their constantly changing colors, from green to light grey and even pale blue. Connecting the paths and lakes are miles and miles of walkways, allowing intimate access to this natural wonderland.

Plitvice Croatia

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

plitvice croatia

 

Paklenica National Park

This river canyon, located an easy drive from Zadar, is famous for its craggy peaks and mountains, attracting rock climbers from around the world. The park is the most visited climbing site in Croatia, and the largest in Southeast Europe. It’s hard to believe, but there are more than 360 climbing routes of various difficulty levels, offering challenges for the novice and pro alike. Summer is when most climbers visit and having visited the park twice, I’ve always been amazed at just how many climbers visit Paklenica. The park offers more than rock climbing though, it’s also a hotspot for hikers and walkers. There are 200 kilometers of trails and paths that lead from the bottom of the canyon all the way to the highest peaks of Velebit. A fun historical fact, the mountains contain a series of secret bunkers that were intended to house former Yugoslav leaders in the event of war or attack. Today of course, the park is just a wonderful place to spend the day outside.

Krka National Park

Another park in Dalmatia, Krka is close to the beautiful town of Šibenik making it a perfect day trip option. This park’s claim to fame is the river and falls that attract people from all over the world. Most day-trippers start with a visit to the Skradinski buk, a massive natural pool with high waterfalls at one end and cascades at the other. From there a raised pathway guides nature lovers through the forest, following the river as it ebbs and flows through waterfalls and pools, a peaceful and serene walk that’s perfect for some exercise and self-reflection. The park is large though, around 109 square kilometers, and there’s a lot to see and do, including some harder-to-reach falls. When I visited I saw a lot of families spending the day there with packed picnic baskets and swim trunks so they could dive in the chilly water of the pools. It’s a fun way to cool off during those hot Croatian summers.

 

Which one of these parks would you explore first?

 

This campaign was created and sponsored by Croatian National Tourist Board in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.

The post Exploring Croatia’s National Parks appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/croatia-national-parks/feed/ 10
Misty Day on Gorgeous Walker Bay Beach, South Africahttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/walker-bay-beach/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/walker-bay-beach/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:50:07 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27618 The post Misty Day on Gorgeous Walker Bay Beach, South Africa appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Walker Bay Overberg South Africa

The post Misty Day on Gorgeous Walker Bay Beach, South Africa appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/20/walker-bay-beach/feed/ 0
Discovering the Beauty of Signs Around The World – Photo Serieshttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/signs/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/signs/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:55:39 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27596 This week the #FriFotos theme is SIGNS, so I thought I’d share a few of the many signs I’ve encountered around the world. Who knew they could be so beautiful? … Read More

The post Discovering the Beauty of Signs Around The World – Photo Series appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
This week the #FriFotos theme is SIGNS, so I thought I’d share a few of the many signs I’ve encountered around the world. Who knew they could be so beautiful?

 

antarctica

Antarctica

Berlin Germany Bundestag

Bundestag, Berlin Germany

Ireland

Cambodia

Restaurant in Albi, France

France

Perth, Australia (obviously)

Shibuya Crossing

Tokyo, Japan

harbour island bahamas

Bahamas

Avignon, France

Wales UK

Wales

Hong Kong

Kayamandi Township, South Africa

London East End UK

London

matt long landlopers

Antarctica

The post Discovering the Beauty of Signs Around The World – Photo Series appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/signs/feed/ 0
An Unlikely Hero – Ample Man in Berlinhttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/ample-man-berlin/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/ample-man-berlin/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:50:46 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27573 It’s hard not to notice him; always there as you cross the street waiting for the signal to go from red to green. He’s unlike any other symbol in the … Read More

The post An Unlikely Hero – Ample Man in Berlin appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>

It’s hard not to notice him; always there as you cross the street waiting for the signal to go from red to green. He’s unlike any other symbol in the world and has come to define the former East Germany. His name is Ample Man and he’s the most famous walk signal in the world.

During the Cold War, West and East Germany had their own versions of nearly everything, including the common pedestrian signals. In the West the figure was a generic form, but in the East it was a man with a well-defined hat, Amplemann. The shapes originated from an East German traffic psychologist who wanted to make signals for both cars and pedestrians easier to understand by everyone, from the colorblind to the young and elderly. While his traffic light designs were abandoned, his ideas for changing generic pedestrian signals into ones that were clear and understandable led to the Ample Man images still seen today.

Introduced in 1961, the Ample Men quickly became popular, achieving a level of cult status almost unparalleled. The figures appeared in cartoons, board games and books; all designed to teach and inform kids about the right and wrong ways to do things. Once Germany was reunified in the 1990s, many symbols from East Germany were abandoned, and even Ample Man came under attack.

Ample Man Berlin Germany

There was an attempt to standardize all pedestrian symbols throughout Germany and soon this beloved figure disappeared. After a few years though, the public began to rebel. Experts called Ample Man an example of a positive aspect of a failed social order. What is now called Ostalgie, or the East German nostalgia movement, adopted Ample Man as their mascot and eventually their protests worked. Ample Man returned to the streets of Berlin, this time in both West and East Berlin.

Since then Ample Man has taken on a life of his own, spawning gift shops devoted entirely to this unlikely mascot of the city. During my visit there it was easy to see why so many love this simple figure. The silhouette is a strange moment of personality in a world that is increasingly impersonal. A walk signal may seem an unlikely place for such a beloved symbol, but maybe that’s why it works. Regardless, even after a short stay in Berlin I find it hard to imagine the city without this important, unofficial mascot.

Have you been to Berlin? Did you notice the Ample Man?

The post An Unlikely Hero – Ample Man in Berlin appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/17/ample-man-berlin/feed/ 2
Keep Western Australia Weird – My 7 Favorite Quirky Momentshttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/australia-weird/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/australia-weird/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:55:21 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27529 Australia in general revels in the fact that, as a continent and nation, it is an odd place. I don’t mean odd in a bad way, but it’s hard to … Read More

The post Keep Western Australia Weird – My 7 Favorite Quirky Moments appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Australia in general revels in the fact that, as a continent and nation, it is an odd place. I don’t mean odd in a bad way, but it’s hard to deny a certain quirkiness that exists in the Land Down Under. Many things are just a little unusual, a little off but in as positive and (usually) fun way as possible. The state of Western Australia though takes this proclivity towards oddness to new levels, partly of their own making and partly thanks to Mother Nature. I experienced many strange moments, but these are a few of the quirkier discoveries I made during my exploration of Australia’s largest state.

photo Quokka

1. Quokkas – Australian wildlife is amongst the oddest in the world, thanks to the continent’s many millennia-long isolation and the diversity of the habitats across the nation. Somewhere on the middle of the quirky spectrum, is a small marsupial that may not have the fame of kangaroos of even bilbies, but is no less important. The quokka lives on only a few small islands and in a hard-to reach mainland colony in Western Australia. That’s it. They don’t number in the millions like their larger ‘roo cousins and few people know about them, even though they were one of the first of many strange animals Europeans to the continent encountered. That’s why I felt so lucky to see them in the wild, but to be honest that’s a common experience on Rottnest Island. A one-hour ferry ride from Perth, Rottnest is a popular place to relax, do some biking and enjoy nature – especially the quokkas. Islanders have embraced their most popular resident, even if the small creatures are at times a nuisance. You can’t deny how cute and how incredibly quirky these strange residents are though.

Hoover House Gwalia Australia

2. Slumber party in the Hoover House – When I was planning my trip to Western Australia I discovered something that surprised me for just how improbable it is – the home of a former U.S. President in the middle of Western Australia’s vast Goldfields region. Located about half an hour from nothing and 45 minutes from nowhere is Gwalia, a ghost town home to three things: 1) abandoned houses; 2) an active mine and 3) the very comfortable home of Herbert Hoover, America’s 31st President. Before he was President, Hoover was an engineer and worked for a mining company that shipped him around the world many times, including Australia. He built this comfortable country house when he was made manager of the mine, which is adjacent to the property, and today it’s part museum and part bed and breakfast. That’s right, you can venture out to Gwalia, see the mine and spend the night in Hoover’s bed. Definitely odd, but it was also one of my favorite experiences in Western Australia. Go figure!

photo Stromatolite

3. One the oldest forms of life on the planet – 3.5 billion years ago, the Earth was a fairly inhospitable place. But a slow process was quietly going on in the planet’s seas. A rock-like organism was doing something the Earth had never seen before. Stromatolites were gradually filling the atmosphere with oxygen, paving the way for more complex creatures to arise. These unique organisms weren’t just the important first step in life on Earth, but their fossils now provide valuable data for scientists trying to learn about early life on the planet. Scientists assumed they vanished into the ether of time long ago, until 1956 when living examples of these amazing organisms were actually found. Where else would something this bizarre and extraordinary happen, except for Australia? Hamelin Pool, located in the Shark Bay World Heritage Site of Western Australia, is home to these amazing creatures, one of the rarest sights in the world. Visiting the rock-like creatures was important to me, and instead of boring blobs (which they are) I was struck by the incredible beauty of the pools, dotted with the creatures still working hard to create life. It’s a humbling moment and one I encourage everyone to seek out when they’re in Western Australia.

Bilby sign Australia

4. Strange animal crossing signs – Australians are used to living in a strange and varied country; their own quirkiness no longer apparent to them. For outsiders though it’s a different story and so often I saw little oddities that made me laugh but which my hosts didn’t even notice. One of my favorite aspects of driving around the immense state involved the road signs, specifically the variety of animal crossing signs. From warnings about birds that could crash into my car (really?!) to signs featuring animals not even Tolkien could have imagined, they were a fun part of my travel experience. This sign though is my favorite; clearly warning drivers that magical creatures cross at this point, right? As it turns out it’s a bilby crossing sign – an animal I bet most people haven’t even heard of. They’re another cute marsupial, much more common than the quokka and about as odd. As you can see from the sign, they’re hard to miss but don’t worry, like most marsupials they’re harmless.

5. Flat tire (and rescue) in Siberia – What’s even stranger than visiting long forgotten ghost towns in the middle of nowhere-Western Australia? Getting a flat tire in one of the aforementioned ghost towns. Whenever you drive anywhere in Australia, even a quick jaunt to the market, you are warned continuously about bringing the necessary provisions, in case the worst happens and you break down. Australia is beautiful but it’s like a rose with thorns, you have to be careful if you want to get close to that beauty. I’m the type of person who believes nothing bad will ever happen, so it’s perhaps fortunate that I was driving through the Goldfields region with someone with a more developed sense of self-preservation than I have. As it happened, we were driving through the abandoned town of Siberia when the worst happened and we got a flat tire. That’s right, I had a flat in Siberia. The bush of Australia isn’t like a normal place, it’s a vast area the size of which is hard for us mere mortals to even comprehend and we couldn’t fix the tire with the tools on hand. Again, had we been in a normal place we would have called for help, but this wasn’t a normal place and cell reception was nonexistent. Luck truly was on our side though because within a few minutes a passerby stopped to help us out. I can’t tell you how very rare a thing that is and to say we were fortunate is an understatement.

ACDC Statue Australia

6. AC/DC Statue – Most cities have statues recognizing famous residents, founding fathers and even mascots. In the Perth suburb of Fremantle though, the statues are a little atypical, especially the one dedicated to Bon Scott. Scott was the lead singer and lyricist of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until his death in 1980 and spent much of his formative years in the fishing town of Fremantle. Once labeled as “socially maladjusted” by the Australian Army, today his memory is warmly embraced thanks to his music and his deep ties to this beautiful town.

Lake Ballard Australia

7. Lake Ballard – If it seems like a lot of my favorite quirky moments took place in the Goldfields region, that’s no coincidence. The dusty and dry area is far removed from just about everything else in the world, but thanks to the incredible quantities of precious metals and ore has been an economic powerhouse for the state. But it’s a weird place. Ghost towns, miners and animals of questionable origins all call it home, as does one of the oddest but most impressive art installations in the world. In 2003, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts Festival artist Antony Gormley was commissioned to produce a unique art installation, a series of 51 sculptures that now cover 4 square miles of Lake Ballard. The Inside Australia sculptures installed on this millions of years old lake feature images of real people, scanned digitally before they were shrunk by 2/3 and artistically reinterpreted, creating alien forms in the process. Each sculpture has a spirit to it and their positioning constantly leads you to the next one, flickering apparitions in the distance. If you’re anywhere even remotely close to the lake, do yourself a favor and stop to walk amongst the statues. It’s a beautiful and profoundly unusual experience.

Which one of these experiences sounds oddest to you?

The post Keep Western Australia Weird – My 7 Favorite Quirky Moments appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/australia-weird/feed/ 1
Stone Statues Of Asuras On The Bridge To Angkor Thom, Cambodiahttp://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/asura-thom-cambodia/ http://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/asura-thom-cambodia/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:50:50 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=27553 The post Stone Statues Of Asuras On The Bridge To Angkor Thom, Cambodia appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
Siem Reap Cambodia

The post Stone Statues Of Asuras On The Bridge To Angkor Thom, Cambodia appeared first on LandLopers.

]]>
http://landlopers.com/2014/07/16/asura-thom-cambodia/feed/ 0