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Fremantle and a sunset

sunny 83 °F

I wandered down to Fremantle, about half an hour by car south of my Arbnb in Innaloo. On the way I stopped at a beach to sample the Western Australia beach lifestyle. Perth shares a lot of climatic and geographic features with Southern California and likewise folks are pretty actively involved in outdoor beach activities. Here are a few beach shots.

Some young folks taking lifeguard rescue training.

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A triathalon training club hard at work

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Of course, some surfing

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and sailing

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Setting aside the temptation to swim 5 miles, I proceeded to Fremantle to have brunch.

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Very tasty - corn fritters with poached eggs guacamole and greens!

Fremantle is an old trading town that had a boom during the Australian Gold Rush. As a result of its decline, a lot of the old buildings were preserved through neglect but have been beautifully restored in recent years. Here's a streetscape; several other streets look equally good.

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There is also a thriving art scene and lots of galleries, some in restored freight warehouses.

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After much wandering on a very warm day, a frosty beverage was called for. This brings up another feature of Perth - it is an expensive city. Food is pretty costly (though tipping is not usual, which helps) - this pint cost me about $10 US. It was a pretty good IPA, not a hop monster, hand drawn so it was not over carbonated, but, unfortunately, a bit too cold for my taste. However, by sitting very quietly and drinking very slowly, I manged to choke it down :) .

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To end the day I headed north along the coast. As sunset approached, I decided I needed to find a beach to see my first Indian Ocean sunset. Fortunately, I ran across Tom Simpson beach more or less at random and hustled out to the beach. I made it with maybe 2 minutes to spare, and got some pretty nice images. Here are a couple.

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Wandered a bit farther up the coast and had a nice bite to eat at an outdoor table at Burns Beach. Nice way to end the day.

Posted by tdeits 04:19 Archived in Australia Tagged food sunset beach perth fremantle Comments (1)

Roaming the outback and back

sunny 78 °F

Well, I don't know if it's officially the Outback, but I did head north out of Perth for a day of visiting the countryside. The first random thing I did was head off on a side road from the main highway lured by a sign for the Western Australia Gravity University Research Center. Of course, my first thought was of a bunch of scientists standing around with an apple going "yup, it does fall down even though we are on the wrong side of the world-how does that work?" Alas, I had foolishly neglected the Iron Law of Public Places and after about a 20 mile drive I found that the Center was closed on Mondays.

The good news was that I was in some pretty undisturbed country by the time I got there

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so I took the opportunity to roam around. It appeared to be the height of wildflower season if you looked closely! There were dozens of kinds of wildflowers, some quite spectacular

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but the great majority were quite small and hidden, but still beautiful. Reminded me of California desert wildflowers in that way.

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There were also a variety of unusual plants that made it clear I wasn't in Kansas any more.

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Up the road, in contrast, is the Australian wheat belt.

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I pressed on, enjoying the view and happening upon the occasional oddity like this -

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My goal was Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles formation. And it was worth the trip

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There are thousands of these things all sticking out of the desert - how they were formed is still unclear.

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There were pinnacles of all shapes and sizes. Here's a small one - a 'minnicle'?

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And, of course, the really small ones are nanicles....

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Another really cool feature of the area is a highly saline lake, Lake Thetis, which is the home of some stromatolites.

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These are mats of bacteria that develop through a combination of accretion and expansion caused by gasses welling up from below. The coolest things about stromatolites is that this life form can be found in the fossil record over 3.5 billion years ago - currently the earliest record of life on Earth. So the picture above would look pretty much the same billions of years ago! (Except for the sky color - oxygen levels were likely lower so the sky and water wouldn't look so blue - the photographers of 3.5 billion years ago would have had to use paleo-Photoshop to get this nice blue color.)

Hit the beach for the usual spectacular sunset and headed home

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Posted by tdeits 14:55 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset outback pinnacles wildflowers Comments (0)

Perth

semi-overcast 76 °F

Today my plan is to visit the Western Australia Museum and Art Gallery. I took the train downtown; took about 20 minutes. First stop, downtown Perth. It's a clean, modern city with a lot of arcades, malls and plazas.

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A very walkable community with public transit, both underground and surface rail, very accessible.

The Museum was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. It suffered from Dead Zoo syndrome.

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There was a pretty good exhibition on the evolution of animal life; one item I particularly liked was this fossil of a coelecanth.

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To their credit, there is a sign that says they have embarked on a $346 million project to create an entirely new museum by 2020.

Despite some rather old fashioned features, there was a quite extensive and fairly unblinking gallery describing the history of European/aboriginal relations. Sadly, relations oscillated between half-hearted attempts to establish rights for aboriginals and increasingly Draconian measures to control them, segregate them and ultimately attempt to extinguish their culture. Lots of resonances with the experiences of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples unfortunately. It took me several hours to take the whole thing in and give it some thought.

After that fairly heavy dose of history, I roamed across to the Art Gallery of Western Australia across the plaza. There I discovered a blatant violation of the Iron Law of Museum Closings - they are closed on Tuesday !!??!!

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This was such a stunning development that all I could do was randomly wander for a few hours to end the day. Here's an example of the classic Perth hotel/bar. There are many similar ones all over Perth and Fremantle.

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I also ran across this interesting bit of street art which I call "Evolution of the bloke."

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Finally, I headed up to King's Park above the city around twilight. There is a beautiful garden of Australian plants, many of which were in full bloom. A bit too dark to get good pictures, unfortunately. I did run across this tree - an Australian version of the baobab tree of Madagascar called the boab.

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I did some brief research on this tree. Signs in the park suggest that it is a species that was isolated from the Madagascar baobab when the supercontinent Godwana broke up about 100 million years ago. This appears to be inconsistent with the very close genetic relationship between the boab and the baobob. The strongest current theory is that humans brought the boab to Australia during their migrations 50-60 thousand years ago. This is also consistent with some recent genetic studies that suggest there was a human genetic contribution to the indigenous population from Indian Ocean populations about this time. There is also evidence that the yams eaten in the South Pacific have a genetic contribution from South American yams, suggesting the possibility of yet another ancient cross-ocean interaction among early peoples. I think that is super cool.

I got an extra bonus when trying to get a photo of the baobab -

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A pair of rainbow lorikeets were nesting in the tree and one kindly showed up for a photo before bedding down for the night.

Once again, sunset arrived in style and another day comes to an end.

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Posted by tdeits 03:13 Archived in Australia Tagged trees birds sunset history downtown perth aboriginal Comments (0)

Valparaiso

semi-overcast 69 °F

The best way to get from Santiago to Valparaiso is by bus. I used a company called Turbus and had a window seat on a nice modern two level bus for the 2 hour journey. I did have some trouble figuring out the connections between bus and subway in Santiago, and frankly there is a fair amount of misinformation about this online. Briefly, buses to destinations within the city including the airport leave from a terminal just outside the University of Santiago metro station on line 1. Buses to other cities leave from a station which is upstairs from the Estacion Central stop on the same line. So a trip from the Santiago airport to Valparaiso on the bus requires an intervening short metro trip.

The trip itself was pretty interesting with a fair amount of elevation change and various climate zones.

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Here's some of the more arid country near Santiago and fairly high up and, on the more temperate coastal side of the hills, some truly enormous orange orchards.

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I have always been intrigued by Valparaiso as it is often compared to San Francisco (my home town). It's a reasonable comparison, but I kind of feel it's more of a larger version of Sausalito, a smaller, equally hilly town in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Sausalito is extremely gentrified and expensive today, but I remember it from many years ago as a child and that memory is the one that seems to best fit the Valparaiso of today.

I actually stayed in a small condo in Vina del Mar, a town just north of Valparaiso proper and easily reached using the local metro line. Here's the view from the condo - nice! Walking around the neighborhood I encountered another very nice Chilean park that also took me back to the park by the ocean in Sausalito, including the palm trees.

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Valparaiso is a fishing and naval town, with the headquarters of the Chilean Navy and a small local fishing fleet. Here are some of the fishing boats pulled up at the central fish market in the afternoon as well as a mural next to them that expresses a not uncommon attitude towards factory fishing.

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Needless to say, seafood is a prime ingredient in Valparaiso meals. I stopped in an unassuming restaurant for lunch and had ceviche (Peruvian style, with the fish chopped into little cubes) and a seafood stew. The first picture shows the stew as presented and you might imagine that there are a few bits of seafood in a sea of broth, but no - it is a sea of seafood just barely covered with broth; the next picture gives you an idea. It was packed with tiny clams and mussels and other mystery seafood bits and, of course, quite delicious. I guess I should mention that prices are very low in Chile - a meal like this is well under $10.

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The town itself is extremely vertical with a downtown along the seafront and very distinctive neighborhoods up each of the flanking hills. You can get up to the neighborhoods by some rather impressive stairs or by way of ascensors - funicular cars, most from the 19th century, that will take you to the top for about a quarter.

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Unfortunately, this ascensor, which goes to the Chile Maritime Museum, has been non-functional for months (although there were some guys working on it with welding torches) so I hoofed it up there after lunch. It's a nice small museum with some interesting bits.

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I actually wanted to see it because my favorite author, Patrick O'Brian, wrote a couple of his Aubrey/Maturin naval historical novels set in Chile during the time of its independence movement. In particular, he deals with Thomas Cochrane, a British naval officer, who is a Chilean hero of independence in rather uncomplimentary terms. No sign of that in the museum, that's for sure!

A few items of interest. An albatross, a chicken (?) and a nice ship model as well as one of the vehicles used to rescue the miners from the Chilean mine disaster of 2010. Interestingly this was a Chilean Navy operation and they created a rescue squadron for the purpose.

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The next day I hopped on the metro again and headed for the Valparaiso museum of fine art, the Palacio Baburizza. It's a nicely restored mansion of a wealthy resident and art collector.

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Mr. Baburizza primarily collected Impressionist era paintings but did not manage to select the better-known artists. For example there is a Rosseau in the collection, but it is the 'wrong' Henri Rosseau (there are two- the better known one is famous for his jungle paintings and unique flat style).

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The Valparaiso art museum collection, primarily of local works, is also housed here. There is also the occasional howler like this one, 'Youth tempted by vice' - which looks a lot more like 'guy really enjoying vice' and perhaps does not quite send the moral message the artist (or the commissioner of the piece?) was going for.

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There are a number of pictures of Valparaiso and environs as well. This one, from 1844 shows the Chilean Navy headquarters, which are still in use.

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I like this town. Here are a couple of views from the hills. One of a hillside from the art museum and another which is a reflection from a glass building adjacent to Chilean Navy headquarters.

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The glass building is an interesting story. A major shipping company needed to expand and proposed sticking this cube into the middle of an existing historical building, retaining the lower facade. This was viewed as extremely inappropriate in the context but, as often happens, they threatened to pull up stakes and move down the road if they couldn't build it, and so approval was granted. This controversy did inspire the community to seek UNESCO designation as a world heritage site to prevent further such encroachment, which was granted. This, too, though, is not without controversy as it turns out that renovation and rehabilitation of buildings under UNESCO rules can be extremely costly; there are some burned-out homes that haven't been rebuilt in decades because the owners can't afford to rebuild to meet these standards. The two-edged sword of protection.

Valparaiso is also a town that has embraced murals/graffiti. Unlike other cities such as Athens, there is a tacit agreement between artists and taggers. Taggers still tag, but in general they don't do so on wall art. Here are a couple of smaller examples and one truly enormous one.

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I really enjoyed my few days in Valparaiso. Not a lot of purely touristic stuff but just a great setting, fine weather (cloudy mornings, sunny afternoons, much like Sausalito) excellent food including amazingly good and cheap fruit - I bought the stuff below for about $5 and it was all perfectly delicious) and great people.

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On my last day I decided to take a Chilean cooking class. We went to the market in the afternoon and picked up ingredients and then cooked and drank piso sours (the national cocktail of Chile) and then ate and drank carmanere (the national wine of Chile) among others and ate and drank and.....a good time indeed. Our instructor, Boris, has a cookbook coming out and promised to email me some excerpts.

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In addition to the empanadas and ceviche above we also made a corn pudding dish that is quite versatile and tasty - I plan to experiment with it soon!

Wow - I hate to do it but at this point I am going to bring my visit to Valparaiso and the entire magnificent round the world adventure to a close. What could be more appropriate than yet one more wonderful sunset. Goodbye world, hello Lansing!

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Posted by tdeits 11:45 Archived in Chile Tagged museums food fishing sunset navy valparaiso ascensor Comments (1)

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