Enjoy the link above to read my story in Just Urbane about Dark Tourism.
Dark Tourism has become a buzzword in the modern era, that takes explorers to places associated with tragedy, death and suffering. Here’s where you can find thrills in the dark side …
Interestingly, dark tourism has a long history and can be traced back to the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. Bizarrely, if you could afford it, you could make your way from Britain to the Crimea and sit on the edge of the battle, being briefed by the Generals, and you could watch the action unfold from the comfort of a wicker chair and a refreshing gin and tonic as the Russians enfiladed the British cavalry as they rode towards the guns.
From the battlefields of the Crimea, to the childrens playgrounds around Chernobyl and from where John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas and to the little bank in Snowtown, there are sites and experiences that intrigue us, draw us in and challenge us to cross that line.
With Jo Trilling on Hidden Treasures for ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, we took what used to be a trek but is now a hop and a skip up the road to Joondalup. Have a listen to the link below, or read on, or do both:
While you would never admit it to your kids or grandkids, there’s something that happens when your first-born child or grandchild arrives. It just seems to be imprinted on the memory a bit more. You remember every detail about their birth and those that come after aren’t remembered less fondly, they’re just not as well remembered.
Joondalup is Perth’s first planned city, built from scratch, born from the bush.
We can remember when we first travelled there. To be honest, we probably made sure we filled up the petrol tank.
When you arrived, you wondered why there were such wide streets and fancy paving. Who was ever going to love this baby and look after it and nurture it?
Joondalup is a big local government area but let’s focus on our traditional Hidden Treasure objective, exploring a suburb.
I’ve mentioned in the past the longing to get back to Bali. I’m really missing a swim that isn’t really a swim, just walking slowing through the middle of a big resort pool with a big hat on. Well you can do that in the suburbs, at the Joondalup Resort. It’s got a big resort pool that would completely remind you of being in Asia if it wasn’t for the singing of the magpies and laughing of the kookaburras as someone slices badly on the fairway of the resort golf course. Maybe the golfer was put off by the kangaroos that lie around the fairways. Currently the resort occupants are only visiting AFL teams. For the ladies, keep on eye on the resort calendar because in August they host a Ladies Night Market full of stuff…for ladies.
Time to move into the heartland of the suburb and take a look at Edith Cowan University. When I attended the campus you could look out the window and see kangaroos boxing in the bush. You still see the kangaroos but they’re now hopping through a very established campus, including hopping past the biggest periodic table in the world on the Science Building. It reminded me of the great pick-up lines for elements, “Forget Hydrogen, you’re my number one element.” and “Are you carbon because I’d like to date you?”
I think Edith Cowan herself would have wanted a mural of those pick-up lines on the science building somewhere.
Next up the road is the HBF Arena, home to the Cardi’s. I’m not going to say they’re mighty but they have put down very strong WAFL roots into the ground and like all WAFL grounds, it’s close to the heart of the suburb and easy to get to and watch some great footy.
Let’s head to the top of the suburb to Nanika Park to check out a mural. Murals and other public art are important to Joondalup because it doesn’t have an architecture yet that reflects the culture of its community, it’s simply not old enough yet.
So public art is a standout feature in this suburb because local artists are used and they consult with local schools and community groups to visually create what is important to them. The mural at Nanika Park is a great example of this. Local artist Hayley Welsh worked with Joondalup Primary School to create the whimsical, ‘Together is a Beautiful Place to Be’.
Let’s duck across to Yellagonga Regional Park which is a great stretch of wetland and pristine bush, full of walking trails and opportunities to sit quietly and watch an amazing assortment of birds that live in the area and migrate to the area. There’s even a jetty!
There’s a walk trail that starts at Lake Joondalup and makes its way for 28 kms up to Yanchep National Park called the Yaberoo Budjara Heritage Trail. It follows the movement track of the local Aboriginal people and was later used by settlers as a stock route.
The track starts at Neil Hawkins park which is nestled against Lake Joondalup and features some more examples of Joondalup public art that acknowledge the Aboriginal contribution and connection to the land through the Bibbulmun Yorga sculpture and the very cool Flight of the Black Cockatoo Table Tennis Table, available to play on all year long.
Next to the war memorial is the Two Up Brewery, a brilliant spot to try local onsite brews and they’re building a great reputation for creating products that also tell wonderful wartime stories about the role of service men and women, children and families.
Making our way into the cbd streets of Joondalup, there are murals and sculptures including the bizarre ‘Interlace’ that senses your presence and squirts water.
Joondalup’s love of public art continues into the evening with visual light display murals on the library and a remarkable sculpture called ‘Love Motels for Insects’ that lights up at night to attract horny insects who want a big night out on the town. Dirty bugs!
There are 1000 ceramic medallions with depictions by community groups, laid into the paving so watch where you’re walking because there’s a lot to see, including the Walk of Fame!
The Walk of Fame features name plaques of famous locals. There is a problem however because the Walk of Fame is missing Joondalup’s own hidden treasure, an 80’s and 90’s Perth rock god, now employed in the heart of Joondalup at the City of Joondalup. The lead singer of The Marigolds and The Neptunes, the one and only Jamie Parry, my big brother.
It’s a Hidden Treasure because you can enjoy getting there, particularly by train, and you can enjoy the luxury of a resort, parks, bushland and lakes, the tribalism of local footy and the defining of a maturing and connected community through its telling of stories in artwork on the ground and on the walls throughout the day and the night.
Joondalup is a hidden treasure because just like that first born, you’re always just a bit more interested to see what it becomes. You want to tell it, “I remember when you were just a twinkle in an Urban Planner’s eye!”
Have a Go News is a Western Australian newspaper with a hardcopy circulation of over 80,000 each month and a very strong online presence.
Click on the link below and hopefully you’ll be whisked away to the July issue of Have a Go News. Scroll through to page 40 and you can read my published story about hot air ballooning in the Avon Valley.
There’s a reason that songs are written about being in the air.
‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘99 Red Balloon’s, ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Danger Zone’ are just a few classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.
Hidden Treasures is going on a special adventure beyond Perth this weekend. We’re going further than we’ve travelled before, past Guildford and Midland that we’ve explored before and up and over the hills and out to the Avon Valley.
Our hidden treasure can only be discovered in the darkness but is soon revealed by the dawn of a new day.
Let’s go hot air ballooning!
The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme. Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.
Arriving at the Northam Airport I’m the first to arrive and there is nobody at the airport except for the resident cat. It’s so cold that the cat jumps into my car.
As other people start to arrive and huddle around the coffee making facilities, I’m taken by news articles on the wall that describe the history of hot air ballooning in the world. This sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s true, in 1783 a sheep, a duck and a rooster went riding in a hot air balloon in France.
I had thought that the airport would be our take off point but Damien, our chief pilot, has been letting go of weather balloons and squinting at the night sky like an old sea captain. For this morning’s flight with Windward Balloon Adventures we must head west of Northam.
These guys have all the permissions required from the shire and farmers to access properties, so long as we remember to close the gates.
Still in complete darkness, our pilots inflate the balloons as they lie on the ground and the roar and brightness of the gas burners is a bit like those aerobatic displays of jet planes whooshing over your head.
After a final briefing we climb into our basket and just like that, we’re away. No seatbelts. No worries.
I’ve done some wonderful air related activities in my life from the fastest and longest zipline in the world with my daughter Matilda down the side of a mountain in South Africa, to twice jumping out of aeroplanes, flying a beautiful Tiger Moth over Perth and the seaplane to Rottnest, and even trekking up mountains and being above clouds.
When I jumped out of an aeroplane I thought about the words of John Magee, a World War II Spitfire pilot who wrote a poem called High Flight with the first line, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” and the last line, “Put out my hand and touched the face of God”.
Astronaut Michael Collins died recently, and he once remarked that he wondered what John Magee would have been inspired to write if he could have been in orbit above the Earth.
As we ascend from the paddock that becomes a mist shrouded valley beneath, I looked to the east and had author Douglas Adams’ words in my head, “There is a moment in every dawn when light floats and there is the possibility of magic. Creation holds its breath.”
I can tell you I held my breath and it was amazing. In so many of life’s travels and adventures it’s been the sights that are the most awesome but what was so immersively different about a hot air balloon experience is that sound becomes part of the canvas before you.
It’s mostly silent apart from the whoosh of the gas burners every so often to get some altitude. Looking down and around you’re suddenly struck by the sounds of parrots having an early morning squabble in the trees over who’s sitting on the best branch, sheep all going baa as they move across a paddock far below and even a dog barking from somewhere.
There are other balloons to help with the perspective of what we’re all a part of this morning. They drift along as we drift along and we rise and fall and our hearts sing with the joy of witnessing to a new day in a beautiful part of the world.
As we continue to drift, we travel over bushland with granite outcrops beginning to be warmed by the early rays of the sun and kangaroos jumping through the trees and in the distance on hills to the west we can see the shadow of our balloon and directly below us the reflection of the balloon is crystal clear in the river below.
We land in a harvester scarred paddock with a gentle bump and everyone helps roll up the balloon into a bag that is much easier to manage than any sleeping bag.
The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia to Beverley, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.
Northam has the Avon River running through it and the champagne breakfast after the ballooning is held in a café overlooking the river, complete with white swans and suspension bridge. During a champagne toast we are all welcomed to the club of Balloonatics.
Hot air ballooning in Northam is a hidden treasure because maybe Northam doesn’t seem far enough for a big adventure. Also, ballooning may be somewhere on the bucket list but it gets pushed down the list because of the need to get up early. Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away.
But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call, but as year follows year, more old men disappear, someday no one will march there at all.
The line above is taken from the Eric Bogle song, ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’.
I remember a time in the 1980’s when there seemed to be a popular sentiment that ANZAC Day would fade away when there were no more old Diggers to march.
It didn’t work out that way. Across Australia, ANZAC ceremonies continue to grow and the sense of importance it has in our communities is encouraging people to travel to ANZAC services in communities abroad.
Maybe not quite ‘abroad’ but one of the dawn services in Western Australia that is increasingly resonating as a remarkable experience, beyond just the significance of the event, is the Rottnest Island ANZAC Day Dawn Service.
One of the best characteristics of a dawn service is that it takes a small level of commitment to get up at a time when you would rather be sleeping. There’s a feeling that the small effort you have to make to attend the service is part of the respect you are paying.
As a family, we arrive at Hillarys at 4:00am for the departure of the 4:30am ferry. The queue is noticeably different for a Rottnest bound ferry. There is no tangled pile of bikes being hoisted in cages aboard the boat. There are no fishing rods, eskies and towels slung over shoulders. It is also very quiet.
Speaking to people on board, it’s apparent that most of us are attending the Rottnest Dawn Service for the first time. Dawn, a rather apt name, remembers her father who had been in the merchant navy always saying he would have liked to have been out at sea and seen the sun come up over Australia on ANZAC Day. Merv, a Rottnest Volunteer Guide, is looking forward to preparing our Gunfire Breakfast after the service.
I haven’t been on a sea in darkness for many years. Standing at the stern of the ferry and looking down at the churning white wake and then looking up at the stars I thought I was about to reminisce about my younger days on sailing ships but with the moment at hand and on my mind I thought about the ANZAC’s making their way ashore in a variety of small craft, ill designed for the landing. At that moment, I thought what it must have been like to be heading towards an enemy shore, not just running around Blackboy Hill at the foot of the Darling Ranges.
It is the first time Rottnest Fast Ferries have taken a ferry from Hillarys for the Rottnest Dawn Service. Up in the wheelhouse I meet James, the skipper, and in between safely navigating in the darkness around bulk cargo carriers and cruise ships we talk about the appropriateness of Rottnest Island for a Dawn Service. In 1915, the first ships from the first convoy from Australia left Fremantle a day before the ships in Albany. Their last look at Australia was Rottnest Island.
Arriving at Rottnest just before 5:30am, we were directed to Thomson Bay beach where the service was due to commence. On cue, the first hues of orange began to rise from the east, backlighting the Perth city skyline, across the sea and land, 30km away.
While the roar of a crowd can be uplifting, the silence of a crowd can be more inspiring. I remember as a kid the Narrogin ANZAC Day Dawn Service, dark and cold, frost crackling under feet as we would make our way across the grass to the memorial, towards the orange glow of cigarettes being drawn on by old diggers, followed by a few raking coughs up and down the line.
The lack of banter, the lack of chat. The will to gather in a silence that says so much.
All over the world, as the sun rises, those of us at ANZAC Day Dawn Services are quiet. The service is held under the protection of flights of pelicans that glide overhead. The wreath laying includes representation from the Beaconsfield Primary School Rottnest Island Campus, 9 students who attend school on the island and who have also made a paper poppy display in the Old Salt Store.
With the growing light I am able to look around at the crowd and I am stunned. I had thought that gathered around my family was about 500 people but clearly there is a crowd of at least 1500.
After the service I speak to Penni Fletcher-Hughes from the Rottnest Island Authority. We stand in the Gunfire Breakfast queue and after discussing the numbers of people who have attended we both agree to just enjoy what is unfolding around us. People are standing at the shore of Thomson Bay, hugging each other and looking out to the rising sun over Perth, others are capturing photos of the Australian flag with the dawn sky behind and in the long breakfast queue a bracing breeze passes over us, carrying with it on the air the promise of bacon, eggs and onion in a warm roll.
I also speak to the Chairman of the Rottnest Island Authority Board, John Driscoll, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the service. John makes the comment that the wreath laying in particular is an example of the deep and broad community feeling for ANZAC Day on Rottnest with a wide variety of government agencies and volunteer groups represented.
We depart the island for the trip back to the mainland at midday. As always, when it’s time to leave Rottnest it’s not the happiest trudge down the jetty to board the ferry. This time it’s a bit different. I feel connected to a new story, a new perspective and a new community of people so passionate about this remarkable event.
Rottnest has given my family an engaging and enduring experience. It always does, but this is different. We are all a bit tired but more than a bit proud to have been a part of a spectacular Centenary ANZAC Day Dawn Service that the Rottnest community made a lot of effort to deliver.
Also from ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’;
And the young people ask, what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question.
I think we’re all marching. We’re all marching to ANZAC services all over the world. We’re all marching to remember.
Since March of this year, the list of things we miss not being able to do because of Covid-19 is very often led by overseas travel.
For me it started out with thoughts about the destinations I wouldn’t be seeing in 2020. It was also about the missed adventures, the exploration and discovery of new things I wouldn’t be able to do and maybe a bit of the pampering, food and luxury as well.
I guess they’re the big things about overseas travel that we miss the most.
What I’ve been thinking about more recently are those little things I miss about travelling abroad.
This all came about recently as I watched my son drive off with a friend’s family for a birthday party. As he waved out of the window of a luxurious people mover, I was reminded of those vehicles you use for transferring from the airport to your hotel, particularly in Bali, Phuket and other holiday resort style destinations.
So here are my top ten little things I miss about travelling overseas:
Packing bathers: I love packing things for the weather you’re going to. In the depths of winter it’s so good to pull out the bathers, hats and thongs for the sunshine at the other end of your flight.
Working out what you’re going to watch on inflight entertainment: Do you like a movie marathon or a tv series? I like to start with a tv series because there’s always a lot of flight announcement interruptions. Then as the meal arrives settle into a movie. For the full inflight entertainment viewing pleasure, make sure your kids know how to use it before you plug in to your own.
Seeing your name on a sign: You’ve cleared customs, collected your bags and there in Arrivals is a sign with your name on it being held up by your driver. I love that. I wish I got that wherever I went. When I go to my favourite café each morning for coffee, they should hold up a sign that says, ‘Mr Parry’.
Vehicle transfer: As the inspiration for this list, the vehicle transfer is close to my heart. I love those luxurious people movers with seats that the manufacturers describe as ‘captains chairs’. The really swish vehicle transfers will provide a drink and a cool towel. It’s the first time you really get to relax. The flight and airport queues are over. Recline the seat, sip a cool glass of Jamu and rest that towel over your face.
Getting your pool towels: The pool towel hut is sometimes staffed, sometimes not. There’s normally a little sheet to fill out to list how many towels you have taken and each towel is neatly folded, stacked and warm. I miss signing for towels.
Speaking another language: I may not be a local but I am a yokel. I love the little giggles from locals when I drawl out what I think is perfectly pronounced ‘hello’ and ‘thankyou’.
Fruit from other parts of the world: I grew up in a small country town where you’d walk down laneways infested with the horrible prickly pear. Walking through the village streets in Puglia, Italy, I learnt that the fruit of the prickly pear is delicious.
Supermarkets in other countries: I think I get more joy exploring the aisles of an overseas supermarket than exploring the galleries of the L’ouvre. I miss not seeing the variations in confectionary and the different descriptions and colours on the cereal packets. It’s not art but it is culture.
Foreign Currency: If I’m ever burgled, I feel sorry for the burglars who think they’ve hit the jackpot with the jar at the front of my house. All those little coins from far flung corners of the world are worth the world to me but probably don’t amount to much more than a couple of Australian dollars.
The inflight magazine: In fact even better than the inflight magazine, with its route maps and advertisements encouraging me to buy Breitling watches and Maserati’s, is the inflight shopping magazine. I always start out thinking I’ll buy a g-shock watch for myself and end up buying the cola flavoured lip balm set. For the kids, obviously.
Wonderful discussion on the ABC Breakfast Show with some very funny talkback callers confessing to all sorts of things that have just ended up in their bags.
Do we leave our values and compliance with rules at home when we check in to a hotel? As the hotel card is pushed down to activate the lights do you scan for what you can put in your bags? Pens? Notepads? Body Lotion? Do Not Disturb Sign? Lamps? Batteries from the tv remote?
I’m a pen guy. Love them.
Above: My favourite hotel pen from The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa. If you’re reading this Sun City it was my daughter Matilda who put the pen in my bag.
My son Tom is still worried the Narrogin Police are chasing after him for taking the complimentary biscuits in the room at the Narrogin Albert Facey Motel.
The Top 10 items taken from hotel rooms:
Pens and notepads
Do Not Disturb signs
Shower Gel, body lotion, shampoo
Box of tissues
Things you will likely be charged for include:
Robes and linen
Wheels on the bottom of the bed
Pocket a pen, squirrel away the toiletries and maybe take a few tissues if you need them but try and leave everything else for the next guest.
You’ve paid for the room, you haven’t paid for its contents.
What a great chat on Saturday morning ABC Breakfast with Christine Layton, discussing the Australia Day events from Broome to Albany to keep you entertained and then a few suggestions for daytrips and overnighters throughout Western Australia. Get out there and find new adventures even on the most well trodden path.
Below are some pics to help you pick your next regional day trip or overnighter. Have you been to Bridgetown or Rockingham recently?
Above: Go down The Rabbit Hole on the main street of Bridgetown for an amazing range of local artist workshops and galleries.
Above: There’s no way you will leave the lolly shop in Bridgetown without a smile on a face and a bag full of sweet treats.
Above: Get to Rockingham which has the best range of aquatic activities in Western Australia. Kite surf in Safety Bay, visit the penguins and dolphins on Penguin Island and in Shoalwater Bay, swim with dolphins off Palm Beach, hire jet skis, jet packs, stand up paddle boards, kayaks or cast a line on the beach and flick in some whiting and flathead.
They make movies here. It’s a land that gave birth to one of the worlds greatest crooners and one of the worlds greatest songs. Below are some links to my story, published in The Starfish and also by Have A Go Newspaper. This is a love story. This is a story about Puglia, a land with towns that one junior reviewer of my work described as, ‘being full of towns with funny names’. He’s right. Puglia does have lots of towns with names you just want to keep on saying, not just for the memories but for the mood it puts you in, just like humming a few bars of ‘Volare’.
On 22 Setember, I was invited to speak with Jules Schiller on ABC Adelaide’s Drive Program to discuss the issue of travel agents in light of the ABC story about Flight Centre, which described the issue of ‘marking up’ fees and a culture of underpaying staff.
My contribution to the discussion was focused on why people still use travel agents and why people choose not to use travel agents.
Nothing broadens the mind like travel and the number one thing we all learn is that there are all sorts of people out there and however you choose to plan your travel is fine by me.
Don’t be afraid to plan your own travel but if you want assistance go for it. Your travel experience either way is more likely to be like Eat, Pray, Love than Taken.
Image above from ABC Story: Current and former Flight Centre staff have been speaking out against the travel giant
On Saturday evening, 18 September, I spoke on 95.3fm about my regular Malaysian travels, Malaysian food and Malaysian tourism strategies.
We also spoke about Rajah Brooke butterflies, the JDT Tigers, the benefits and consequences of spicy food and how much I enjoy using the rail network (particularly the monorail) in Kuala Lumpur to travel the city.