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We are at the beginning of the mother of a road trip, destination Cape York.  Our first  few days, before we reach Cairns tomorrow to rendez-cousin with our travelling companions, have been spent visiting family members along the way.  Here is a taste of Days 1-3.

Thursday 22 June

Cool weather and a fine day for the first leg. Just south of Maryborough we spotted the first sugar cane fields. We made a coffee stop in Childers on the main street that boasts many heritage buildings.

Our destination for the night was Moore Park Beach just north of Bundaberg where we made an obligatory stop in homage to a big user of sugar.

It is a rare thing these days to see any cane fires. There was a big one burning as we approached Moore Park, with smoke blowing across our path as the late winter afternoon sun lit up the fields.

Friday 23 June

This morning it was strawberry fields forever as we took off to meet an old friend at the Fingerboard Roadhouse where shutting the bathroom door is a necessity.

Today’s other landscapes included Brahman cattle, coal trains and lagoons.  The many newly-ploughed fields played host to egrets, hawks and crows sharing the spoils.

We pulled into a rest stop at Clairview near Blue Rocks before lobbing into Mackay for the night.

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Friday 24 June

Today’s lunchtime stop was Bowen, where from Flagstaff Hill we were treated to some stunning views of the offshore islands. Bowen is the capital of mangoes, tomatoes and salt, given the big low tides that stretch out from the town.

Due to a major traffic accident on the highway about 40 minutes south of Townsville, we had to back track and take the road near Guri across to the A6. Some vehicles got a bonus wash from the irrigation sprinkler.

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A morning visit to the Penang Museum to absorb some more information about the history of Penang and its diverse cultural mix. These photos include some Nyonya clothes and an opium bed, just in case you’ve ever wondered what furniture to use while smoking.

On in the heat to the Pinang Peranakan Museum (aka The Green Mansion). A very rich merchant family owned this 19th century house which, as it happens, turns out to be a good venue for wedding photographs.

Little India was going off around lunch time on this first day of the weekend. The Thali trays were coming fast and furiously out of the kitchen of Woodlands Vegetarian restaurant as sari-clad ladies who lunch caught up for conversation over food. One is definitely spoiled for choice in Penang with Indian, Chinese and Malay specialities easily available throughout the day and night.

This morning’s street art hunt was a hot one. As I write thunder is making its presence felt, so we’re hoping for a drop in temperature of a degree or two this evening.

Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s mural art is the most distinctive of the street art in and around Georgetown on Penang Island. The Boatman in the photos below is by Julia Volchkova. 

From the 101 Lost Kittens Project, some feline art action.

The steel cartoon art is seemingly everywhere you turn. Today’s samples include a nod to Jimmy Choo who apparently started his interest in shoes in his early years in Penang. Works by Baba Chuah, Tang Mun Kian and Reggie Lee.

 

Semenggoh Nature Reserve was the first stop this morning. The reserve opens for two sessions a day so that people can watch some of the forest residents come in for a feed.  It’s not news that these animals are endangered. And it’s not surprising, given the amount of old forest land that is now cultivated with palm oil trees.  Orangu-tans and palm oil do not mix.

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We drove out to Gunung Gading National Park, on the off-chance that the parasitic Rafflesia Tuan-Mudae was still showing off its large flower on the floor of the forest. The helpful Ranger said we were about 3 days late for the flower’s peak condition, but he gave us directions to find one specimen that was still holding on, before it fully deteriorated. They flower for 4-5 days. We were there on Day 8 and fortunate to catch it in this state.

It was a long day in the air on two flights from Sydney yesterday to Kuching, via Kuala Lumpur and a near miss on the connection. We’re here in Sarawak province on the island of Borneo in the hope of seeing orang-utan and other local wildlife.

Today we familiarised ourselves with Old Kuching and the diversity that its different cultures and histories have contributed to the city.

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The old Courthouse has been turned into a community arts hub with music, and art spaces mixing it up with cafes.

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This display is a nod to a horticultural feature of Sarawak. Two hours away in the Gunung Gadang National Park,  the Rafflesia tuan-mudae – a large parasitic plant is flowering. We haven’t the time to go see it and apparently won’t miss the smell of this so-called corpse plant.

This is the Textile Museum. No photographs allowed but there are examples of all kinds of crafts relating to costume and other functional fabrics including the use of shells, dye and beads. Silver and puppet crafts are also featured. The most unusual object was a vest made from anteater ‘shells’.

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We also visited the photo-free Sarawak Ethnology Museum where the majority of people were ignoring that rule. This is an orang-utan skeleton.

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Around lunch time on this humid Sunday, there were few eating options open. Fortunately, the Indah Cafe was in full swing. They make superb roti dishes and cool drinks. It also boasts a gallery and art workshop space upstairs where I found these great old Sarawak tourist posters.

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We walked back along the waterfront to our digs with a stop for coffee/tea and cake to rack up the calories we’d walked off in the heat.

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Kuching is full of cat statues given the Bahasa Malay word for cat is kucing. This is one of the less kitsch pieces.

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Tomorrow morning we’re off up the river to Bako National Park where we hope to see proboscis monkeys and wild boar and other creatures of the forest.