Author Archives: Greta

Who’s a bully, then?

Several years ago we used to put bird seed out for the parrots. While lorikeets mainly feed on nectar, a lot of the other breeds like cockatoos, corellas, and pink and greys, like seed. The trouble is, at first you get a trickle, then you get a flood and there’s this pushing, shoving, jostling bunch of birds all after getting a beak into a bowl. And that can lead to spreading diseases like the truly awful beak and feather disease.  Although its worst manifestation occurs in sulphur-crested cockatoos, the virus can be transmitted to other parrots. In fact, it can affect birds like wedge-tailed eagles when they eat an infected bird.

So I don’t put out seed anymore.

These photos date back to when I did. There’s bird seed in the bowls. One solitary sulphur crested came down to take a look and liked what it saw. But it didn’t want to share with any of the lorikeets.

The lorikeet isn’t impressed with the new arrival

The cockatoo pushes its weight around

The lorikeet tries to stand its ground

But in the end it’s just too small

Um… does any of this remind you of politics?

Humans are tribal. It’s hard-wired into our behaviour, one reason why we, as a species, have been so successful. It’s also why we fail on a global scale.

The UN was a good idea that is now well past its use-by date. It is ham-strung by the power of veto afforded to six countries, and it is riddled with corruption. Rich, powerful countries – I won’t name names but they remind me of sulphur crested cockatoos – buy votes from small, impoverished nations, like lorikeets. The ‘debate’ over whaling is a glaring example, as is the ineffectual posturing over Syria. Self-interest dominates the debate. That, and wealth. The same things happen in global sporting bodies such as FIFA the Olympic Games, cycling, cricket…

A similar pattern is emerging in Western politics. ‘Our’ politicians aren’t listening to the people anymore. In Australia, where voting is compulsory and where we have a strong, two-party system, votes for the two main parties is eroding fast. We’re turning to smaller groups who more effectively reflect our mindset, be that the Greens, One Nation, or the new Australian Conservatives. Judging by my Facebook feed, voters in the US and the UK are similarly disenchanted with their governments.

And what about ‘globalism’, that necessary precursor to a global parliament like the UN, where every country shares its resources and its wealth? Once again, it’s a nice idea.

I’m beginning to think that globalism is one of the main reasons why levels of pollution in our oceans and cities have soared. We catch fish in Australia and send them to China to be cleaned, scaled and wrapped in plastic to send back to us. OF COURSE they’ll send us back the same fish, how could you doubt it? We can get any vegetable, any time of the year – grown on the other side of the world, packed in plastic and sent to our supermarkets. When I was a kid my brother used to catch crayfish off the moles at Fremantle harbour, a yummy treat for all the family. Now, a little cray which he wouldn’t have bothered with costs so much at the supermarket I don’t even look. Meanwhile, crays from Western Australia are put on a plane still alive, and flown to the Japanese fish markets.

Seems to me we’d be better off living simpler lives, eating what’s in season, making do.

Whales and dolphins, oh my

The annual whale migration from the Antarctic up both coasts of Australia is underway. Numbers are growing and though it’s early days before the main influx, there are quite a few whales in the Bay. I decided to take advantage of some wonderful cool, calm, Winter weather and go off on a whale watch to see what we could see. I went with minimal expectations – Hervey Bay holds a *lot* of water and though whales are big, they’re scattered and they spend a lot of time beneath the surface, so they can be hard to find. But I was pretty sure we wouldn’t go back to port without having seen a whale up close and personal.

I was right, of course.

Freedom III is one of Hervey Bay’s small fleet of about seven whale watch boats. I’ve been on all of them and they all offer great value for money. But each has its own niche, if you like. Some feed you, one’s a yacht, one’s large with heaps of deck space, some go out for short trips, others spend most of the day. Since I live here, I’m happy to dedicate the whole day to whale watching. It’s about a 45 minute trip from the harbour into Platypus Bay off Fraser Island where the whales are mainly seen, which means if you’re on a four-hour tour, that’s actually two and a half hours up where the whales are. That’s just fine in peak season (August-September-October) when it’s kinda sorta wall to wall whales, but not so early in the season. Freedom leaves at 9:30 and gets back at 4pm, which gives us five hours to find pods. (A ‘pod’ is a group of two or more whales. They don’t stay together for long, it’s more like meeting a buddy and saying ‘hi’, then going off on your own.) While you’re out on the boat, you get morning tea (profiteroles and warm scones with jam and cream), lunch (chicken, roast beef, potato salad, mixed salad with fetta, warm dinner rolls), and afternoon tea (cheese, biscuits, and fresh fruit). You can buy alcohol and/or fizzy drinks, and water, coffee, and tea are on the house.

Context; boat, two whales, and Fraser Island

The weather was superb – few clouds, not much wind, flat sea. Freedom carries 45 passengers, but there were certainly less than thirty, so we had plenty of room.  The vessel headed on up past Moon Point into Platypus Bay and we soon encountered a young humpback who hung about at a distance before he disappeared. Oh well. I suppose some whales are shy. Moving right along.

Curious youngsters checking us out

A couple of youngsters came over to say hello. They’re smart and they’re curious. They can see and hear underwater much better than we can, so even if their eyes are below the water, they can still see the humans waving at them. We caught a few spyhops (that’s when they put their snouts above the water).

Whales are unpredictable critters. One pod we visited splashed around and checked us out, but then the whales went quiet, so we went off to find some others. That’s when we saw our first breach – behind the boat. The two we’d been with decided to perform. Bugger. But that’s how it is with wild creatures. We were in their country and they were just doing what whales do.

I did manage to get a series of shots of another breach. It’s always amazing to see a huge creature fling itself out of the water with a couple of flips of its tail. These are not very big whales. At this time of year most of the whales are juveniles, not sexually mature. You could say they’re whale teenagers. But even so, they’re big. A whale calf is born at about four and a half metres, and they grow fast.Further out in the Bay we were treated to a supporting act from a few of the local bottle nosed dolphins, who surfed the bow. Freedom, like all the whale boats, is a catamaran. Each hull played host to a dolphin. In fact, they were VERY disappointed when we slowed down for a whale encounter. The dolphins went over to the whales to have some sort of fishy conversation. We were told the dolphins surf the whales, too. Whales can travel very fast when they want to, creating a bow wave under their bodies. The dolphins surf on that, the same way they surf the boat.

One dolphin in particular hung around, aware, I’m sure, that we would have to leave and that then we’d pick up speed. Every time the skipper moved the boat he’d be back, waiting for some action. He had a short last run before we moved out of his territory.

All in all, it was a great day, exceeding expectations.

 

 

Big Brother is watching you

It’s quite funny looking back at the olden days when 1984 was still a future date on the calendar. 1984 was published in 1949, the year before I was born (how about that?). I read the book at school, I think, and I remember the discussion when THAT year finally arrived. Well, that year passed by with barely a whimper. Computers were still toys for playing games, or bloody great edifices used by banks and the Department of Defence. A wall still split Berlin. People still had to read paper books and the Post Office delivered letters. The IBM PC was only just beginning to make its bid for the hearts and minds of home users – even with the truly awful IBM XT with its 4-colour, lousy resolution screen and its measly 360kb floppy drive. And the Internet was science fiction.

Maybe George Orwell’s conceptions about the future didn’t quite fit the real 1984 – but I think the world has caught up in the last decade or so, indeed, leaving his imagination in its wake as it rushed past.

Recently I (and many others) have struggled with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679, where all web sites which receive visits from EU residents must disclose how they use information they collect about people. Lately there have been calls for rules about how facial recognition software is used. It’s all very well for getting through immigration at the airport but the software is playing a much greater role in life in places like China. It’s always sold to the general public as a way of catching criminals and the like, but the fact is the idea of ‘privacy’ is a fast-diminishing concept.

To some extent people accept that there’s a trade-off between privacy and convenience. CCTV in public places helps to make us safer. If Google knows where we are, it can find restaurants for us or recommend a route to a museum. If a facial recognition camera detects a murderer in a crowd at a football match, that’s great. But although the algorithms are getting better, the matches are not always correct, which might be a bit sad for that unfortunate individual in a place like China. Apart from that, everybody’s face is scanned. Big Brother will know (should he care) who went to that football match, even which colour scarf he/she was wearing.

Australia is not a police state, but the Government is collecting more and more information about us. It already has our tax records and if we receive any form of Government subsidy, such as pensions, education support, or unemployment benefits, we have a record with that amorphous octopus, Centrelink. And we also have a Medicare card, which gives us access to subsidised prescription medicines via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and bulk billing for a few medical services.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the Government’s latest idea is just such a one.

I can imagine the conversation. “I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we collect everybody’s health records and store them so that any doctor can look them up? Let’s say you live in Brisbane and you’re on holiday in Melbourne and get sick. You go to a doctor and that doctor can look up the records to find out what medication you’re on, what you’re allergic to…”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What could go wrong? Er… let’s see. What if an insurance fund could find out you had an existing condition? What if you had an embarrassing disease you didn’t want the world to know about? (AIDS, for instance) What if the information held about you was just plain wrong? (Here’s an example) But that wouldn’t happen, and of course we can trust the bureaucrats to keep our data safe and private. Here’s what the department itself has to say about these issues.

Remember that locked filing cabinet somebody bought at a secondhand shop? It turned out to be full of recent, confidential cabinet papers. Oops. Here’s the story.

According to the GDPR rules people must opt in to any scheme collecting private data. But this is Australia. The new MyHealth record is going to be created for you whether you want it or not, administered under the ubiquitous MyGov umbrella. They’ve been very quiet about that, and even quieter about being able to opt out. Thanks to Janet Albrechtsen, a respected journalist (a real one) with The Australian for writing an article about this. (No link because it’s a subscription paper.) The comments it attracted were interesting. Quite a few doctors elected to opt out of the scheme because of fears about accuracy as well as privacy.

Based on several comments and concerns, I’ve opted out. You can opt out of the scheme until 15 October 2018. Follow this link to find out how.

It seems to me 1984 was a long time coming – but it’s even bleaker than Orwell envisaged.

 

The birds down the beach and other things

Ho hum. The Football World Cup is coming to its conclusion and many of the people I know who are interested in the round ball game were hoping for a France-England clash. I must admit there would have been something historically satisfying about a France-England clash. The Poms might finally have got their own back for the Battle of Hastings.

Oh wait. That was Agincourt, wasn’t it? The French were probably hoping to get their own back for the Battle of Waterloo.

The Frogs and the Poms are best mates these days, ever since WW1, which ended slightly fewer than one hundred years ago. But they were bitter enemies for many centuries before that. Alas, it is not be. The last semi-final has now been played, and it seems England will have to wait for a few years more. Croatia beat the Poms 2-1, so the grand final will be France vs Croatia, which does not have the same weighty historical significance. I expect the Croats won’t care.

To be honest, I’m not very interested in the round ball game. There’s far too much tiggy-touchwood passing and histrionics from overpaid players who roll around screaming when somebody clips their ankle. In the men’s game anyway. The women tend to just get up and get on with it. Of course, they don’t get paid as much…

The Australian team made its expected exit early in the piece, beaten by the French. Somebody pointed out that the fellow who scored the winning goal for France was ‘worth’ more (in terms of salary) than the entire Australian team. That says something. Personally, I don’t like it. It’s no longer sport, it’s an overpaid circus. Yes, I know cricket players and rugby/AFL players get paid a lot, too, but not in the millions and millions paid to these fellows.

The best football news I’ve heard lately is that 12 Thai kids and their coach are back above ground. Such a wonderful thing to get some good news for a change.

Oh – and in the State of Origin Rugby League (which is a HUGE thing in Queensland and New South Wales)  the Cane Toads (Qld) beat the Cockroaches (NSW) in the third of a three-game series. NSW had already won the series – but Don’t. Call. It. A. Dead. Rubber. (I wonder why they call it a rubber?)

If football’s not your thing you can always watch the tennis at Wimbledon. Sorry, I’m not a tennis fan, either. But even I think it’s great to see the oldies doing so well. Carn Roger, carn Raffa, carn Serena. (‘carn’ is Australian for ‘come on’.)

I was delighted to see that the officials at Wimbledon have refused to move the mens’ grand final to accommodate the football world cup final. After all, it’s tradition.

And now for something Quite Interesting – birds at our beach.

This Brahmani kite is one half of a couple of pairs who hang around the beach. It has just caught/found a sea snake for supper and is carrying it off.

Pelicans are often seen around the Torquay area or at the pier. These three are in perfect formation, flying low across the water.

There’s a couple of pairs of ospreys with territory on the beach, too. They’re often seen around the pier, on the rocks, or in their favourite beachfront trees. This one has just taken off after a bath. The ospreys and the kites seem to exist quite equitably together. They’re often seen in fairly close proximity to each other.

An Australian white ibis comes in to land amongst its fellows foraging at low tide. They are the local scavengers, rummaging around in bins for scraps and hanging around people trying to eat their fish ‘n chips. But they come down here for their natural food, too.

Of course we have the ubiquitous silver gull. This one’s just landed on the shore. Unlike pretty much everywhere else in Australia, our gulls don’t mob people for food. There’s usually plenty for them to eat, what with fishermen leaving fish carcasses on the beach.

And that will do for this Saturday. Enjoy the sporting blockbuster of your choice, and I hope your team/player wins.

 

The rythmn of life

The start of a new day

I don’t know about you but I’m getting a little bit sick of reading about ISSUES such as the price of electricity, equitable distribution of GST, ‘single use’ plastic bags that aren’t, and Donald Trump. And Brexit. Not that these matters are not important – they are. But they become depressing, so for this Saturday I’ll show you a few pictures of Hervey Bay in Winter – a season we actually love, with warm days, cool nights, lower humidity, and not much breeze.

Those conditions mean we often get night time mist, which I can translate into the picture at top when the sun comes up, its rays lancing between the branches.

The sun at a low angle enabled me to take this photo of a backlit cordyline. The green circle is lens flare – light reflecting inside the lens.

A shower can bring its own reward. This perfect double rainbow was a glory to behold. The entire arc was visible, but my lens couldn’t quite manage the width.

Bright, calm days are lovely at the beach at Scarness

It’s a bit cool for the locals, but visitors from Europe or the southern states of Australia are right into the water. The seagulls are talking about this pair.

The Brahmani kites watch proceedings from a beachside tree above theit hidden nest

Sometimes the sun has to do some burning off just after dawn. A pelican watches a paddle boarder set out

This large flock of cormorants decided to move position further down the beach. They were absolutely silent most flying just above the water

You have to walk a loooong way out to find water deep enough to swim

The next day the mist was even thicker. It didn’t deter the fisherman, though. Or the walkers. You can just see the Brahmani kites half way along the rocks at the back behind the fisherman

Here are the kites in close up.

The sun eventually did break through

And there are always seagulls. Interesting point – unlike places like Perth, the gulls here are not scavenging pests. That’s left to the ibises (aka bin chickens).

The mist clung to the cobwebs in this beachside casuarina

And here’s a sunset, just to prove we sometimes do get clouds.

I hope you enjoyed – we certainly did.

Renovating sucks

Before and after

For the last couple of weeks our house has been a mess. We decided it was time to fix up our bathroom, ensuite and toilet – which also meant relaying the laundry floor. Pete and I had to share the ensuite, a small room with a shower and a toilet and not much else. But at least we had a second toilet/shower. I can’t imagine what people have to do if they have only one bathroom. Hire a portaloo?

Wouldn’t that be fun if you need the toilet at 2am? Ha. Reminders of long gone days when I was a child in Shenton Park, where the toilet was outside.

The first job was stripping the rooms down to nothing. First the existing bath, hob, shower screens, toilet and vanity were all removed. The tiles are stuck onto cement sheeting, and the guys just cut off the cement sheeting, tiles still attached. That took a couple of days. The floor tiles were broken off with jack hammers and crowbars – both layers. In the past somebody had re-tiled on top of existing tiles (which happened to match the rest of the house). Seems odd to me.The new tiles they’d laid on top didn’t match at all.

Copious quantities of dust and noise were produced. Then floors were leveled and new cement sheeting walls erected. Then it all gets waterproofed with a special paint, which of course has to dry. At least it’s a break from the noise and the dust.

After all that the guys can lay the floors (stopping regularly to cut the tiles to size). They had to build the surrounds for the new bath, fit the bath, install the vanity. Then we had to wait for the plumber to set up the new taps (we’ve gone from two taps to mixers, which means changing the plumbing). Then there was a new drain for the new bath and the new toilet. We managed to get a load of washing done in a lull in proceedings (the weekend) because we weren’t changing the taps on the washing machine, but larger items like towels and sheets were left for later.

It’s all done except for the shower screens, which are made to order to fit the size. They’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive. And then … we can start all over again to renovate the ensuite.

Ask me if I’m looking forward to that.

And here’s a few lorikeet photos for something pretty to look at.

Plastic bag ban is a bit more virtue-signalling

fruit on trays covered in plastic

We have entered the Woolworths brand new world of no more single-use plastic bags. Bring your own (they have to be clean) or buy one of their sturdy plastic bags, or their tougher bags. Yay! Hurrah! /sarcasm

As it happens, the grey shopping bags are not the big problem. Many, many people reuse them as bin liners. I certainly do. Having said that, it seems most people are in favour of the change. It was tried for a while in the Target supermarket, but the plastic bags came back. Maybe people have finally been embarrassed into seeing what effects plastic has on the environment. It’s a good step.

But…

This is virtue signalling, the change you make when you want to look like you’ve made a change. Pardon my cynicism, but I always look at what’s in it for them (the retailers). Coles and Woolies will sell you reusable shopping bags – that’s always a plus. And they don’t have to buy those shopping bags and put them out for people. Another plus. After all, Aldi has been doing the same thing for years.

The fact is plastic take-home bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Single use plastic abounds in packaging. Biscuits often come in a plastic tray in a plastic bag. Meat comes on a styrofoam tray with a soaker pad to soak up the blood, then all wrapped in plastic. I could go on but you get the idea. I talked about this before, in a post called, on supermarkets and packaging. Anything packed in trays or bags is a labour saving device. The product comes with a barcode, making it easier to process at the checkout. No weighing and measuring, it’s all done before being placed on the shelves. Oh, and the product lasts longer on the shelves, another plus for the retailer.

What about plastic bottles replacing glass in most liquids, liquid soap (in a plastic bottle) instead of bar soap, bottles of water (!), throw-away plastic cups, plates, cutlery, drinking straws, sandwich bags etc etc etc. This is where we really need to make changes before we end up living in a world that is one big waste dump. In Asian countries it’s easy to believe we already are, but we in the West collect and bury our waste – except for clever countries like Norway, who use their waste in furnaces to create power.

There’s a looooong way to go before the world is a plastic-free place.

Give me a sec to dismount from my hobby horse.

That’s better. Now then, on to another teensy rant. Fashion in the twenty-teens.

I hates it, I does.

I mean, really? Pre-ripped jeans? They cost more than the standard denims (if you can find them) and they’re skin tight. Real stove pipes. They HAVE to be torn at the knee so the wearer can bend his/her knee. And if you want a pair of standard, comfy, denim, boot leg jeans without rips? Well, you might get a pair of levis for a hundred bucks or more. Me, I’m after comfort – cheap comfort. I’m past style. I’ve even let the holes in my ears heal over.

Edited to add: I’ve had jeans with holes and things – but they were EARNED through toil, and I was reluctant to throw them away because of the fabulous fit. This rant is NOT about those – it’s the shortcut that bugs me. And the laziness.

They pay MONEY for these???

Then there’s guys with unshaven faces. Apparently there’s a special razor to get ‘the look’. You end up with a two-day growth which I expect is supposed to make the wearer look ‘masculine’. No, sorry, yuck. It’s stubble. Have you ever tried kissing a guy with stubble? Might as well rub your mouth with sandpaper.

Pass.

[Sigh] Ah, the joys of being a miserable grumpy old fart. Better get off the hobby horse again.

Tigers

The Goddess Durga on her tiger mount

There used to be tigers on Bali. On Java, too. They’re gone now, extinct. The Sumatran tiger hangs on by the tips of its claws in the vanishing pockets of forest on Sumatra but they are critically endangered, with the numbers in the wild down to just a few hundred individuals. There are too many people on this planet, shouldering out any life that competes. All over the world wild places have become smaller and smaller as humanity takes over.

Apart from the ever-dwindling habitat, tigers and other iconic animals are the target of poachers, slaughtering animals for their body parts which are highly prized in Chinese medicine. It is astonishing to me that in the 21st century there are still people that believe a potion of ground-up tiger penis will give a man virility. I’m sure Viagra is cheaper – and it’s known to work.

The time will come when the animals we all saw in our nursery books – elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, koalas – will only be able to survive in parks and zoos. Maybe there’s still a little bit of time. The Indian Government has spent millions to help to preserve Bengal tigers. Villages have been closed and the people moved to provide space for the big carnivores to roam naturally with their prey animals. But all of this is only going to work if people care, if a living tiger is worth more than a dead one. I was delighted to learn that tiger numbers in India have actually risen for the first time in decades. People go the safari parks to see tigers in the wild there. Education works.

That’s why, with some misgivings, I went to Bali Safari to see the tiger show.

I’ve seen tigers before. Many years ago, armed with my very first, brand new, totally unused Canon EOS camera, I went to Singapore zoo. We arrived early, and the tigers were having their morning swim. Wow. Just wow. Three of them, interacting and playing in the pool. It was wonderful and I’ve never forgotten it. Often the big cats lie around, maybe flick a tail, because that’s what they do. To see them move, running, (from a safe distance) is an absolute joy.

The tiger show lasts for half an hour. Hundreds of people turned up to watch, most of them Asian, many of them children. Like the elephant show, the aim is to educate. First we were shown the importance of the tiger in Balinese culture (which is based on Indian culture). In Hinduism the tiger is the steed of Durga, the warrior aspect of the Moon Goddess who battles demons with the weapons carried in her many arms. Durga and her mount were paraded out into the arena and a couple of human ‘tigers’ danced. Then performers showed the impact of man’s encroachment on tiger territory and the effects of poaching. The poaching was stopped by the Goddess, which I thought was a great touch.

The tigers themselves (three young beasts) were only out there for maybe ten minutes in total, in two short bursts. They came out with their keepers but were free to run around the waterfall and the grass. One immediately lay down in the stream. Another curled around a keeper’s legs, asking for his bottle. The third trotted along the path by the waterfall, encouraged with treats.

It was simply wonderful to see them move, that long, loping, effortless run. I was almost brought to tears. One of them climbed a pole wrapped in thick rope for a treat dangled above. I don’t think people realise how high a tiger can climb, or jump.

Bali Safari also has white tigers. They were not in the show (I’m pleased to say) but people can watch them being fed in another very short ‘show’ (about 10 minutes).

White tigers are not albinos. They can occur naturally in the wild if there is a mating between two cats which both carry this recessive gene. The coat is very pale, almost white, with the usual black stipes and they have ice-blue eyes. Their striking appearance makes them showy and popular – but scratch the surface and you’ll find a few disturbing characteristics. All white tigers are cross-eyed, even if they don’t appear to be. They also suffer from other genetic defects, such as club feet and problems with internal organs, so they don’t tend to last in the wild. All the white tigers in captivity stem from a litter brought to the US by a hunter who shot their mother. In the pet trade in the US white tigers were popular so breeders crossed fathers with daughters or granddaughters, brothers with sisters, to be sure of getting at least one or two white cubs from the pairing. The rest would be the usual orange – and they were often excess to requirements. The result of all this is that white tigers are horribly inbred. Nobody should be breeding them at all. Please read this article from Big Cat Rescue in Florida for more detailed information about white tigers.

Unfortunately, while Bali Safari had a poster explaining the double recessive gene and how a white tiger can result from mating, it did not mention the other effects. I most sincerely hope the park is not breeding from these cats.

Nonetheless, I took a few nice pictures of the cats in their spacious enclosure.

I love tigers. As it happens, I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger. Chinese couples try to avoid having a girl in a tiger year. We grow up feisty and nasty. So it’s said.

You might have noticed a certain level of passion in this post. Without being an expert, I know a bit about the plight of the world’s tigers. I have written two books about them. They’re fantasy, starring a were-tiger (like a werewolf, a creature that can look like a human or an animal). The first, Black Tiger, is about the impact of poachers and the Chinese medicine trade on the tigers in India, with the fantasy and a touch of romance woven in.

The second, White Tiger, is about tigers in the USA where it is still legal in too many places for people to own great cats as pets. In fact, while the number of tigers in America is not precisely known, it is in excess of 6,000 – many, many more than the number of wild tigers in India – indeed, the world.

I wrote the books to try to educate people in an accessible way – read them for the fantasy and the romance and come away with a bit more knowledge about tigers in the modern world.  I suppose it’s my small attempt to make a difference. It’s not quite as good as letting people see the real thing, but it’s the best I can do.

picture of black tiger coverBlack Tiger

He haunts the jungle – and her dreams

When Dr. Sally Carter travels to India to regroup from a broken heart the last thing she wants is to fall in love. But Raja Asoka (Ash) Bhosle is entirely too attractive to ignore, even though she knows it can only end in tears. Hers.

Ash guards his forest and the precious creatures within it, protecting the rare tigers from mindless slaughter, and a secret that lives in legend. From the moment he sets eyes on the Australian doctor, he wants her, even over the objections of his mother and the unsuitability of her cultural heritage.

While Ash fights tiger poachers, Sally struggles against cultural prejudice. Can the Legend of the Black Tiger be the bond that brings them closer together, or will it be an impossible belief that rips them apart. The closer Sally comes to understanding what the legend means, the more frequent the nightmares become. Is she losing her sanity, or is there more to Sally than she herself knows? The answers lie buried in her past.

Buy the book from Amazon  Kobo iBooks B&N

  White Tiger

New York is no place for a tiger – not for weretiger Sally Carter or for the white tiger she finds in a Harlem basement, guarding an enormous stash of heroin. Sally’s daring rescue of the tiger attracts journalist Dave Gardner, who sniffs a story and a lead to a drug baron he’s been trying to nail for years.

While Sally is determined that the white tiger will find a home in a sanctuary, Gardner follows a tenuous trail from the tiger back to the drug cache – and a whole lot of trouble. Soon Sally and her weretiger husband find themselves mixed up in a drug baron’s plot for revenge where even their amazing weretiger talents may not be enough to save Gardner – or themselves.

Buy the book from Amazon  Kobo iBooks B&N

 

 

 

Bali Safari Park

The introductory show. The orang was only out there for a few minutes.

I was very much torn about whether to visit Bali’s safari park or not. On the one hand it’s a large safari park which takes visitors in a closed vehicle into closed habitat where animals do what wild animals do. On the other hand the park offers several animal shows. I don’t much like animal shows where the creatures are used to entertain humans. And I detest circus acts with lions and tigers forced to sit on boxes and jump through hoops, and elephants do head stands. But these animal shows weren’t acts in that sense. Bali Safari offers shows very much like Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast, and other parks around the world. They’re meant to educate while they entertain. Years ago I’d been to an orang utan ‘show’ at Singapore zoo which was excellent. The keepers said that for the orangs it was something to alleviate boredom, a very real thing in zoos. The animals weren’t forced to do anything. One big male didn’t feel like opening a coconut, so after he refused, the job was given to another orang. I hoped this park would be similar.

So we went.

Our hotel’s shuttle bus took us over to a larger hotel where we transferred to a Safari Park bus for the trip to the park, meandering through heavy traffic out to the other side of town. I think you need a LOT of patience to live on Bali – something I’m not good at. The Safari park’s entrance is modern but the organisation is decidedly olde worlde. The best thing to do is book and pay at the hotel or via the park if you can. We were held up in a queue for a very bloody long some time. Even after we managed to pay it was unclear what we were supposed to do next, but we eventually found someone to ask.

A bus takes visitors from the entrance area to the start of the show. Our tickets entitled us to several animal shows, a ride through the large safari habitats, a boat ride, the aquarium, and of course we could wander around to look at the exhibits. The first performance was an introductory show. Guinea pigs, cats, dogs and some birds ran onto the stage, encouraged by treats. None of them were asked to perform. A female hornbill flew in and a member of the audience volunteered to allow the bird to land on her arm. But the bird declined so the show moved on.

Female hornbill. She didn’t want to sit on a visitor’s arm

No animal was on stage for more than a few minutes. One of the resident orang utans appeared and swung across the stage on a rope. The orang was given a coconut to tear apart to show the audience how powerful he was. This is where the education part becomes important. The commentator explained that orangs were on the verge of extinction because they were losing their habitat – the rainforests of Borneo. Most of the several hundred people watching were Asians – Chinese, Indian, Indonesian – and many of them were children. If animals are to survive in the wild, increasingly it will be because we humans ensure that it happens. These kids need to know what it is that will disappear if we don’t change our ways.

We moved on to the elephant show.

Elephant swims through the water

I had misgivings about this one and I still do. The park offers visitors the option of being taken around the park on elephants, something I think is wrong. Guests can feed an elephant (nuts or something sold to visitors) and have their picture taken with an elephant. I’m not sure about that, either. Here’s one eye-opening review of the elephant riding – please read the park’s response, too, to be fair. Oh – and patting lions? Don’t do that, either.

An elephant’s eye

In less enlightened times Perth zoo had a solitary elephant who used to take patrons on rides around the zoo. I partook more than once. In retrospect I feel awful for that poor ellie. No family, none at all of its kind. At least here there is a herd of elephants and the park has a breeding program.

The elephant show was in no way a circus act. But it was a performance, mainly by human actors who showed how humans had impacted on the lives of the elephants by building houses, cutting down forests and the like. The commentator explained the differences between African elephants and Asian elephants (hint: it’s not just the ears). These were Sumatran elephants, smallest of the family, and hanging on to life in pockets of Sumatra. They might survive if enough people care about their fate, if the animals are worth more to societies alive, than dead. Education, you see. The oldest elephant in the show grew up in harsher times when people didn’t really understand elephants. Although there was no obvious sign of mistreatment in the show, I had to wonder. It seemed to me she was doing her damndest not to put a foot wrong (so to speak). In contrast the younger elephants were relaxed, mainly swimming around the pool in front of the arena.

Yes, we saw a tiger show. I’ll talk about tigers in another blog.

Then we went off on our tour of the safari habitats. Herbivores were kept in very large enclosures (at least a hectare (2.5 acres) each), one for each of Africa, Asia, and South America. The carnivores have their own space where they did a lot of sleeping. From the bus we saw wildebeests, antelopes, giraffe, lions, tigers, sun bears, elands, zebras etc. They all look in great condition and are clearly well looked after.

A young zebra waves her tail

A lion doing what lions do

It was a long day. We boarded the bus to take us back to the pick-up hotel, where the promised shuttle back to our hotel was missing. They’d made a mistake with the pick-up time, coming for us at 4:30, which was when we boarded the bus at the Safari Park. We were asked to take a taxi, with the charge being paid by the hotel. A taxi duly arrived and we explained where we wanted to go. He didn’t know where our hotel (The Kayana) was but he knew the five-star resort, the W, which was right next door. I suppose the driver thought he’d picked up a bunch of gullible old farts. The trip in the morning had taken about ten minutes. By the time we’d driven for ten minutes, we all knew this was wrong, and said so. He mumbled something about one-way streets and heavy traffic, which we didn’t believe for a moment. Colin found the hotel on a map on his phone and showed the route to the driver, who assured us he knew where to go. In the end that ten-minute trip took thirty minutes and we made sure we told the clerk at our hotel how the driver had tried to rip us off.

Still, looking on the bright side, we got to see a woman walking her dog while riding her motorbike.

And here are some more photos. It was fun, but technically the pictures aren’t brilliant.

A piranha. They get very bad press which isn’t actually true

Nice to see the dye on the horn – makes it useless to poachers

A hippo doing what hippos do

This lioness was sleeping but she got up for a wee and a quick drink 🙂

Not too sure what these beasties are – but that’s a mean set of horns

Macaws. I suspect the park also does care work. A couple of the birds had damaged wings

A komodo dragon trying to look cute

Reptiles can be pretty. Not sure what it is

A Day of Rest

Swimming pool with the dining area on the right

After our Big Day Out yesterday Wednesday was a day of R&R. Our package included a one-hour massage each. Sandy and I opted for a facial, which was very nice, while the boys had an all-over rub (no hanky panky). Apart from that we didn’t do much at all.

Power lines and wires

One of the most enduring sights in many Asian countries is the power lines. One thinks of spiders with a cocaine habit. But apparently there is a reason for it. In most Western countries cables go to the house and are then used to feed the various devices. As far as we could understand lines here go to a given device. So if you buy an air conditioner, one of these lines is strung up to feed it. We were told it would be MUCH more expensive to do it our way. Whatever. It seems to work. We had internet speeds of 140MBS using the hotel’s free WIFI. We’d kill for that here in Australia.

Late in the afternoon, since Sandy and I are both keen photographers, we decided to go down to the beach to take pictures of the sunset. Looking at the map it appeared that several nearby streets would take us there so we set off. We were disabused when we got to the security guard. Asked where we were going, we said the beach. He shook his head. This road led to a hotel and there was no public access.

Bugger.

We went back to the main road. As it happens, a hotel shuttle had arrived, dropping guests there so they didn’t have to make the 300-metre walk. Pete went over to talk to the driver and came back grinning. “She said to take the next road and when we get to security, tell them we’re going to the W.” The W is a five-star resort.

We set off along a roadway of arched bamboo until we reached the security point. This was SERIOUS security. One fellow carried a semi-automatic firearm. Not only were vehicles searched, we had to walk through a scanner like they have at airports. No questions asked, they waved us on. A few minutes later one of the resort’s shuttles ranged up beside us and insisted on giving us a ride the rest of the way to the hotel. The W turned out to be pretty flash, with several swimming pools and paved seating areas all overlooking the beach, which was thronged with people.

Fancy living at the W resort

Unfortunately, while clouds often give character to a sunset, in this case they were too thick. The sun made a brief appearance under a heavy curtain, but the show lasted for a couple of minutes max.

Busy one way

Sunset

We wandered over to the rank of shuttles waiting to take people to the main road and caught a lift back. Tomorrow we would be visiting Bali’s new safari park.

A few shots of Bali streets

The lane next to our hotel. There’ll be people living down there

Seminyak market

He didn’t buy it

A roadside shrine

A hotel facade. Don’t know what the mannequins are about

Kerobokan jail – the admin block

Beautifully carved tree root. There are two Chinese dragons depcited here. This is the retaining wall for the footpath – but I do think it’s old tree roots.