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Most Australians who grew up in the 60s are familiar with the May Gibbs stories about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, two little gum nuts that have adventures in the Australian bush, helped by lizards, birds, possums and other native animals. The bad guys were ‘the bad bad banksia men’ modelled after the cones that are left once the banksia flower stems have fallen out and the cones have hardened. There are 76 banksia species and the banksia is named after Sir Joseph Banks, a naturalist who travelled to Australia with Captain James Cook. If you are familiar with the banksia tree it is easy to see where Gibbs got the inspiration for the bad bad banksia men as they mostly look kind of wicked.. but there are friendly and jovial ‘banksia men’ to be found, like this little guy that I spotted at North Head, Manly, Sydney on a recent trip.
I have been cruising through some of my old travel photos and the flower one caught my eye. It was taken on the grounds of one of the best places I have ever stayed, the Morning Mist Resort near Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. Don’t think western style resort with multi-story buildings and contrived landscaping, this was an immense flower garden with bungalows for guests dotted throughout the grounds. It was amazing to meander back to our digs through such a sensual overload and to wake up amoungst it.
The place had a great restaurant with incredible views of jagged mist covered mountains, delicious local cuisine and the most divine fruit cocktails, decorated appropriately with masses of flowers. The resort was walking distance from an entrance to Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.
Khao Sok is one of the oldest virgin rainforests in the world, even older than the Amazon, and the area is well worth a visit. One of my favourite outings was visiting a monkey colony and being allowed to cuddle a baby monkey, it was even sucking its thumb like one of my daughters used to do. It is memories like these that keep my passion about travel alive. I hope Morning Mist is still there, the people were so lovely. I did this trip in 2010 and the garden must now be a midsummer dream.
One of the highlights of a weekend away at a remote location ‘Point Lookout’ in the New England National Park was seeing the male Superb Lyrebird and his female companions scrapping around in the dirt near the residence. The New England National Park, located in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, has spectacular scenery and pristine wilderness including World Heritage rainforests.
The Superb Lyrebird is one of the Parks many inhabitants. A great mimic its sounds can be mistaken for any number of birds, animals, or human made noises including chainsaws, telephones and trains. It is a ground dwelling bird, the males growing to 80-100 cms including a long 55 cm tail. When attracting a female the male dances, turning his tail upside down over his back and spreading its delicate fringes over himself like a mantel. It is a beautiful sight to both see and hear.
Spotted gum trees are prevalent on the New South Wales south coast, a part of the world I recently visited. The name Spotted gum is actually the common name for four species that grow along the east coast of Australia, from northeast Victoria to the northern tablelands of Queensland. They are attractive trees with their straight, slender trunks and smooth bark that is shed in patches, giving the trees their characteristic spotted appearance.
Walking amoung them while meandering around river mouths in Eurobodalla National Park was a pleasant and peaceful past-time. There are lots of great walking trails in what Australians call National Parks, and below them on the conservation scale are Nature Reserves. If you are travelling with a dog access to National Parks is off limits as there scent frightens off native animals, which may even abandon their young, but most Nature Reserves allow for restricted dog access. Always best to do your research before you go.