Controlled Burns

Perth is affected by smoke haze from controlled burns during certain times of the year. For further information go to the Department of Parks and Wildlife website.

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Review of the Toyota FJ Cruiser – first looks.

First Looks at the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser is being touted by Toyota as the ‘spiritual successor’ of the FJ40 but with modern technology and a ‘pimp my ride’ makeover.  With such a great off-road heritage and Toyota’s credibility in the off-road market the question that first sprang to my mind was how well would it handle the bitumen, not the dirt …… and could the FJ be used not only as weekend warrior but also as a daily ride?

So while we have to wait for the chance to do an extended road test I zipped on down to the local Toyota dealership in Caning Vale to get some first looks at the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

My luck was in and one of the friendly staff at Prosser Toyota offered to let me drive them down to the local diner and back for an informal first look. 

The FJ came across very well overall with everything ‘falling to hand’ quite naturally and little adjustment required before just taking off.  In fact if anything the FJ is one of those vehicles that seems to tell you once you are inside, “look, don’t fart around, just drive me”.  So with a quick flick on the wing / door mirror controls and an alignment of the rear view mirror I flipped her into drive and off we went.

The FJ sits well and looks the part.  Although striking, the FJ does not come across as loud and pretentious like the Hummers, or old and traditional like the Jeeps.  Maybe it is something to do with the shorter wheelbase (as compared to the hummers) and the cheerful paint jobs but the FJ looks fun, modern and like the kind of ride that would put a smile on your face any day of the week – not just at the weekend.   

But looks are not everything and I was interested to see if the FJ was mutton dressed up as lamb or if there was substance to the good humored look and youthful appearance. 

A quick pull at one of the front doors resulted in a spacious opening that looked welcoming and practical.  There is no carpet on the floor but the wide aperture and rounded edges make the FJ interior look surprisingly inviting.  A quick hop up and a look around the back and you realize that this was a vehicle built for two.  We not exactly, but I certainly got the feeling that the FJ was not trying to be a Land Cruiser and seat seven people in comfort.  The FJ strikes me as being targeted at the solo driver or couple who will occasionally need take a few passengers in the back or who have young children for whom leg room is not going to be a huge issue.  Nothing wrong with that and no demerit points so far.

Even having said the above a switch into the back seats still leaves a comfortable first impression.  With the front passenger seats moved forward just a little there is plenty of leg room in the back for a couple of six footers and someone in between.  How comfortable it would be over a long journey I don’t know, but like I said, this is not a full size Land Cruiser and should not be expected to be used as one.

The back seats pull up and the back seat rests pull down to make a pretty flat and useable cargo space with minimal projections to interfere with loading.  There is no under floor storage as far as I could see but there are tie downs for heavier items that might shift in transit  (like that fully loaded esky eh!).

The load space and interior again comes across well as easy to clean, durable and practical. 

Up front the inclinometer, temperature and other gauges add a nice touch and do not seem to interfere with front vision at all.  So now it is probably time to mention the nearly vertical front windscreen which I had heard other people describe as off-putting.  Personally I hardly noticed that it was vertical until I took a double take and then had no problems with it whatsoever.  There is no great feeling of having an extended hood in front of you and nothing of the ‘pillar box’ effect I had read other people comment on.  To me the front outlook had a feeling of spaciousness and clarity of vision and I immediately felt comfortable driving the vehicle with no real adjustment at all.  In fact it was only when I forced the thought for a second or flipped on the triple windscreen wipers by accident (gimmick, cute trick or practical addition? ……   I will tell you when it rains really hard!) that I considered the angle of the screen and then came away feeling quite positive about it.

At least for me it was no big deal.  So front visibility and flat windscreen, again, no demerit points at all.  In fact quite pleasant – at least from a visual, if not a wind tunnel perspective.

Side and rear vision on the FJ are however severely compromised.  Looking over your shoulder to the left to merge into traffic is pretty much a waste of time.  The massive pillars and small windows result in a huge blind spot and there would be no-way to reliably see what was coming up on you by looking over your shoulder.  But having said that, the large, almost truck sized wing mirrors worked extremely well and after a couple of turns and merges I quickly began to learn to use the mirrors much as I would in a panel truck and not rely on side-window visual cues.  How well the wife would manage that I don’t know (heh!  I am talking about my wife, not yours, or women in general either) and I suspect that for some drivers it might be an issue but I think that personally I could get used to the poor side vision simply because the wing / door mirrors are relatively big and provide a lot of visual information.

Getting back to the back as it were, the small rear window is probably the only other weakness or concern that came to light during this brief look-over.  The back window is small and high and for anyone used to anything except a light truck or bigger (i.e. a car) the rear visuals are severely limited.  The addition of a reversing camera as standard and I believe reversing sensors as standard are recognition of this.  Either way the rear view from the drivers mirror is sufficient but by no means panoramic and I suspect it would take a lot of people a little getting used to, especially when reversing into parking spaces.

But let’s remember that this is not a ride dedicated to the city commute.  The FJ is clearly targeted at people who want to be ‘out of town’ but still has enough graces to make it comfortable for city use.

The back cargo space is limited but well designed and looks about as useable as one could expect it to be.

Yet to be tried is how flat the cargo area really can be made – by taking the headrests off for example.  How easy it is to load and unload and how to open that rear window in the back door!  Try as I might I could not find the secret to that one.

So all in all a very positive first look at the Toyota FJ Cruiser.  She drives well in terms of pick-up, stopping and delivery.  The ride is really quite comfortable on the hard stuff (bitumen) and the turning circle and handling at sub 70Kph speeds seem to be exemplary.  Comfortable and easy to drive, I look forward to an extended test drive and to learning more about this new member of the Toyota family.  I recon she is going to be a lot of fun!

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Bibbulman Track. Part 1. Kalamunda to Mundaring.

Just a great walk today.  A beautiful day  - not too hot and certainly none too cold.

Michael and I drove first to Mundaring and dropped one vehicle off there.  We then drove my ute back to Kalamunda and set off on our hike to Mundaring where we had lunch before driving the car back to Kalamunda so that we could both head off home.

So now for the stats:  We did about 17.5K today…. from Kalamunda Hotel to Mundaring Weir Hotel (first part of Bibbulman Track); moving average 5.1Km per hour; 17.43K total; total time 3:43mins; started about 9:30 and finished at the weir pub at about 1:15.  Perfect!  And … we hit 15.3Kph on a downhill stretch rock hopping…. and that is moving!

The Bibbulman Track is about 1,000Km long and starts in Kalamunda in the Perth hills and finishes in Albany on the coast of Western Australia.
You can see a visualization of the track here.

Today was a really pleasant walk and the weather was perfect.

There are a few steep hilly sections during the first 5K or so but nothing too challenging really.

And at the end of the hike… well what could be better than a cold pint of beer!?
…….And at the Mundaring Weir Hotel there is always something interesting going on….. music… people driving old cars… rallies….and good food.

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Cape to Cape December 2010

The Beginning.


As you can see the campground in Dunsborough is not at all pretty.  But we were only there to eat and sleep.  But look carefully as you watch the next bit…. look at the prices on those trailers!!


And now we start the walk…

Beautiful views of pristine beaches from cliffs that were pushed up out of the sea millions of years ago.

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Budget accommodation around the world

Hostels / Britain

YHA London Central

Architecture and interior design company Blacksheep created the public spaces of this new £4.3m hostel, a stone’s throw from Oxford Street in central London. The result is a bright, contemporary and colourful hostel – a world away from the traditional dingy image. There are 294 beds in rooms sleeping between six and eight, with ensuites, a self-catering kitchen, common room, lounge, internet access and cool cafe/bar.

• From £17.95 for adults, under-18s £13.50 (               01629 592 700         01629 592 700 ,

YHA Hartington

A converted 17th-century manor house in its own grounds in the Peak District, this historic hostel is all oak-panelled rooms and squishy furniture. Highlights include the oak-panelled Bonnie Prince Charlie room, where the hero once spent the night, and the award-winning Eliza’s Restaurant. For ultimate luxury stay in ‘The Roost’, a private apartment which doubles as a bridal suite and includes kitchen/diner and flat-screen TV. The largest dorms sleep eight. It suits families too, with family bunk rooms, adventure playground, pets’ area, games room and outdoor chess. A new cafe/bar opened this year.

• From £17.95 for adults, under-18s £13.50 (               01629 592 700         01629 592 700 ,


Eastseven, Berlin

This laidback hostel, in a great location between the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts in central Berlin, attracts travellers of all ages. It’s fairly small, which adds to the friendly atmosphere, and staff are happy to share insider tips on the city. Hang out in the homely kitchen, retro-style lounge or pretty garden (complete with picnic tables) or join a free walking tour. There’s a choice of dorms (the largest sleeps eight), as well as private rooms, all brightly decorated, and pluses include complimentary lockers, wi-fi and a modern self-catering kitchen.

• From £15 in an eight-bed dorm, private twins/doubles from £21 (

Oops! Hostel, Paris

Opened last year in the Latin quarter, this little gem is bold and beautiful, with striking murals, patterned wallpaper and ensuite rooms and dorms. The creation of interior architect Philippe Maidenberg and graphic designer Daniela Millas, it offers free wi-fi and internet, and complimentary breakfast.

• From £24 in a six-bed dorm, with hostelworld (

Oasis Backpackers’ Mansion, Lisbon

Overlooking the river in the hip Santa Catarina district, the Oasis offers budget chic inside a wonderful historic building. Accommodation is in dorms with floor-to-ceiling French windows and Juliet balconies, with comfy mattresses and sparkling bathrooms. There’s wi-fi and 24-hour internet access, a rooftop bar, full cooking facilities and a garden barbecue for self-catering, or you can tuck into great-value gourmet dinners. Breakfast is included in the price. Free activities include Portuguese classes, a weekly backpackers’ party (held in a local club) and twice-weekly excursions to listen to Fado music. One- to three-day surf safaris with a former world champion surfer cost €50 a day.

• From £16 in a six-bed dorm (no private rooms) including breakfast, booked with

St Christopher’s, Amsterdam

Ideally located between Dam Square and the Red Light District, this hostel has funky dorms for six or eight, all with their own bathroom. There’s a chill-out room, private beer garden, the slick Belushi bar serving good value food and booze, and a buzzing nightclub, ‘The Winston Kingdom’.

• From £17, including breakfast (               00 31 206 231380         00 31 206 231380 ;

Plus Florence, Italy

This hostel opened in March with terrace bar and restaurant overlooking the Duomo and indoor pool. Rooms range from private twins to mixed or single-sex dorms for eight. A women-only space offers big bathrooms, large mirrors, hairdryers, fluffy towels and complimentary cosmetics bags.

• From £17 in an eight-bed dorm with

La Controra, Naples

A converted 17th-century hunting lodge in the heart of Naples, La Controra is an atmospheric, historic hostel with an arty edge. The rooms have recently been refurbished, and you’ll find pieces of contemporary sculpture alongside retro furniture. The lush garden is a great place to relax in a hammock and swap travellers’ tales, while films are shown in the lounge/bar area (which is often used for art exhibitions, too). Choose from mixed dorms, family rooms or doubles.

• From £14 in a 10-bed dorm or £25 for a twin/double, including breakfast with

Rooms Deluxe Hostel, Valencia

Billing itself as a ‘deluxe hostel’, this place has many similarities to a boutique hotel. There are 28 rooms (single, doubles and triples), and you can pick the room you fancy – the calming ‘buddha’ room, the sensual flamenco suite or the soothing Mediterranean room. The open-plan, fully equipped kitchen and stylish living room (stick on a DVD of your choice) offer a modern take on the traditional hostel’s communal space. Next to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, with beach and city centre close by, the location’s great, too.

• From £27 in a three-bed ensuite, with

Further Afield

Equity Point, Marrakesh

A sanctuary of calm on the edge of the chaotic Djemaa el-Fna, Equity Point is a characterful riad-style hostel, with dorms sleeping up to 10, as well as double and single rooms. It’s decorated in true Moroccan style, with plenty of comfy cushion-strewn sofas, ornate mirrors and paintings and a softly lit inner courtyard. Head to the rooftop bar for amazing views and tuck into great-value traditional fare prepared by chef Rachida in the restaurant.

• From £12 in an eight-bed dorm with

Daddy Long Legs, Cape Town

Housed in a spacious Victorian building, this place could be called a hotel – but the self-catering kitchen and common room blur the hostel/hotel line. There’s no queuing for communal bathrooms – the 13 bedrooms are all doubles and each has its own shower and toilet. Rooms were designed by artists, poets and musicians, and there’s a lively bar and a cafe serving breakfast and lunch.

• From £38 for double ensuite with

Imm Eco Hostel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Opened this spring in huge tropical gardens not far from the city centre, the Imm Eco hostel is like a boutique hotel with dorms – all contemporary Thai decor, with wooden floors and stylish furniture. There are 71 rooms, ranging from twin rooms with private bathrooms to dormitories sleeping up to 12. Facilities include outdoor pool, chill-out common room, library, gallery, TV and 24-hour shop, as well as a shuttle bus into town.

• From £6 in shared room without ensuite (               0066 53 247 111         0066 53 247 111 ;

Lub D Hostel, Bangkok

The owners of Lub D wanted to combine the ‘explorative spirit’ of a hostel with the quality of a premium hotel and the resulting sleek, contemporary property in central Bangkok is a haven for hostelling style-seekers. There’s a theatre with flatscreen TV and comfy beanbags, a trendy Yellow Donute cafe, a bar (with free popcorn), a women-only zone and a lobby with 24-hour internet facilities, where guests can show their photographs on a big screen. Air-conditioning and towels are provided in all rooms, from the 12-bed dorms to the doubles with queen-size beds and private bathrooms.

• From £6 in a dorm, special internet rate (               0066 2651 9501         0066 2651 9501 ;

Base St Kilda, Melbourne

It’s hip, cheap and close to the beach. Housed in a new red glass and polished concrete building, all the dorms and private rooms at Base have ensuite facilities, lockers and air-con – and the girls-only Sanctuary floor offers extra creature comforts (tea in bed, champagne in the evening, Aveda shampoo). Kick off your stay with a free drink at check in, and head to the popular Redeye Bar for happy hour, followed by games and pool competitions.

• From £15 in a dorm room for six with STA Travel (               0871 2300040         0871 2300040 ;

Peking International Youth Hostel, China

In the heart of Beijing, just five minutes from the Forbidden City, this converted old house is set around a peaceful, green courtyard, offering a retreat from the frenetic city. The decor is traditional Chinese, with wood beams, antique furniture and colourful walls. There’s free wi-fi, a well-stocked library and a restaurant serving affordable local cuisine. Private and dorm accommodation available, the largest sleeps 12.

• From £7 in a 12-bed dorm with

Tango Backpackers, Buenos Aires

In the lively, bohemian district of Palermo, Tango Backpackers is a fun place to stay, with friendly staff and spacious accommodation. Several old houses have been joined together to create a rambling property, with a large terrace for sunbathing, complete with showers. Spacious brightly painted rooms have high ceilings and wooden floors, with single-sex or mixed dorms sleeping up to six and double and single options too. There’s a 24-hour bar, fully equipped kitchen, high-speed internet, wi-fi and reading room, live music every Friday and an Argentinian barbecue each Saturday.

• From £7 in a dorm, through STA Travel (               0871 2300040         0871 2300040 ;

Hostel Inn, Iguazu Falls, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

There’s a real party atmosphere at this hostel, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, check in elsewhere. The biggest pool in town is the centre of action, and there are volleyball courts, a football pitch and table tennis to keep you busy. Cook for yourself in the self-catering kitchen, or munch on delights from the restaurant. The weekly barbecue and tango and samba nights guarantee Latino-style fun. There are double and triple rooms with TV and air-conditioning, and dorms for up to eight with private bathrooms – and maid service and breakfast is included.

• From £6 in an eight-bed dorm with

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Top 10 hotels in and around Delhi

Delhi is boomtown, but the choice of hotels is still limited to palaces or pits — unless you know where to look. Amelia Gentleman leads the way …….. Amelia Gentleman of Guardian Unlimited, Tuesday January 8 2008

Most hotels in Delhi are breathtakingly expensive. The country’s economy has gone from near-hibernation to frenzied growth in the space of little more than a decade and Delhi can barely accommodate the constant arrival of business delegations from around the world, let alone tourists. In peak season, between October and March, when the temperatures are bearable, it is hard to get a room unless you’ve booked in advance and are prepared to pay extortionate prices. There is still very little in between the mammoth five-star establishments, groaning with obsequious staff and offering you £15 glasses of wine, and the backpacker dives near the railway station, where you pay by the hour to turn on ear-splittingly noisy air-conditioning boxes, share showers with fellow tourists and cockroaches, and cook your own meals in the corridors. But, with some advance planning there is a third way. If the big city becomes intolerable, it is worth driving an hour outside Delhi to take refuge in some of the forts and palaces on the city’s fringes.

Pataudi Palace

Once owned by the aristocratic cricketer Mansur Ali Khan “Tiger” Pataudi, this palace built in the 1930s is full of cricketing memorabilia, as well as faded remnants of high-society Indian life. It feels quite musty and creaky in the billiards and games rooms, but this is part of its charm. Several of the rooms have four posters and interesting paintings by modern Indian artists. The building has beautiful white terraces looking out over the pool. Only a little more than an hour from Delhi, and minutes from the hi-tech hub city of Gurgaon, the palace is surprisingly peaceful. There’s also a cricket pitch, and the Indian food is fantastic.

Tickli Bottom

Owned by two British former diplomats who never wanted to go home after their India posting, this is another country retreat, an hour from the city.

A neo-Lutyens mansion built around a courtyard, with pretty rooms, the house has its own farmyard next door and children are invited to go and play with the animals once they’ve tired of the swimming pool.

Beyond the city centre

Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel

An hour and a half’s drive from Delhi, this recently rebuilt fort is a wonderful place to spend a night. If you are feeling rich, ask for the room Kate Winslet stayed in, but even the cheaper rooms are lovely. It has a pool and great views over the local countryside. There’s not much to do nearby, so it’s best not to plan to stay too long, but use it as a half-way stop off on the way to Jaipur, or as a one night escape from Delhi.

The Manor

One of Delhi’s very few boutique hotels, The Manor was originally conceived in the 1950s as a country hotel on the outskirts of Delhi. Such is the pace of urbanisation here, that the hotel now feels pretty central. It has a beautiful garden, a restaurant on the terrace, and roaring fires in the winter.

The Imperial

Only stay here if you have a big budget, but if not, you can drop in for a drink on the lawns for an hour’s peace after trinket shopping on Janpath or sight-seeing at the nearby India Gate. Designed by Lutyens, the hotel’s art deco inspired architecture is unforgettable, and the garden, lined with tall palm trees, is a rare stretch of green near the crowds of Connaught Circus.

Inside is equally lavish, with white marble and heavy teak but the jasmine-scent sprayed throughout the corridors is a bit overpowering. The water-colours painted by colonial British soldiers which line the walls are interesting and it’s worth peeping into the vast ballroom where Indian society weddings have taken place for decades. If you eat breakfast or lunch on the lawns, watch out for huge crows and kites which hover above to steal food from your table.

Park Hotel

With its bright pink sofas, lounge music and urban chic furniture in the lobby, it can feel more like stepping into a Clerkenwell bar than a central Delhi hotel. The Park is not cheap, but it has a lovely pool, a good Italian restaurant (which Antonio Carluccio helped launch a few years ago, although standards have perhaps dipped a little), and the fashionable Fire bar frequented by Delhi’s rich, young professionals. The main attraction is the Indian restaurant, Agni, which has the best Indian food in any five-star hotel in Delhi. Try their version of Indian street food (which is the best way for newly-arrived visitors to try it, because the real version needs a strong stomach), the chaat platter. Also good is the slow-cooked, minced lamb stew, halim and the fish cooked in banana leaves.  It has the quiet feeling of a grand Indian home rather than a place to brush shoulders with business delegates from Chicago. The white Lutyens-style terraced building is beautiful, but the hotel’s three main attractions are its location right in the heart of New Delhi; its room prices, which are much lower than the big corporate hotels; and the presence of one of Delhi’s best restaurants on the ground floor. With its sister restaurant in Mumbai, Olive is probably India’s most fashionable restaurant, a good place to go and see young Delhi elite hanging out in the late evening. It serves Mediterranean food in the garden and in a breezy white courtyard inside. The food is good (but best to avoid the peculiar bananas wrapped in parma ham for a starter).

Ahuja Residency

Right in the centre of Delhi, this is a no-frills guesthouse, which comes highly-recommended. The 1950s home is located in one of the city’s upmarket residential enclaves, Golf Links, and family-owned and run. It’s very central, and best of all walking distance from the extraordinary shopping arcarde of Khan Market, where you can buy everything from £15,000 antique pearl necklaces to jars of Marmite imported from the UK. Chelsea Clinton bought pashminas here and Cherie Blair came here to get cheap sunglasses.

The Maharani Guest House

Simple, quite unglamorous, but cheapish and clean, this hotel has the advantage of being located in the reasonably central, prosperous, tree-lined residential complex of Sunder Nagar, walking distance from the Sunder Nagar antique market, (which also offers Baci, an Italian restaurant with late night drinking and dancing). It’s close enough to the zoo to hear the howls of the caged animals, and only a few minutes drive from Delhi’s excellent, underrated, craft museum.

Delhi government bed and breakfast home stays This is a new initiative launched by the government as an imaginative way of coping with the dire shortage of hotels in the city. The Tourism Ministry has advertised for “friendly families” willing to take in tourists on a bed and breakfast basis. These families are interviewed and their linen supply/bathrooms checked out before they are added to the lists. It’s still a very new idea, but the tourism minister hopes it will take off. As a very broad rule, Indian families are tremendously hospitable and Indian food cooked at home is usually far better than anything that you get in restaurants here.

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Some of my favourites

Some of my favourite things at the moment are my Ssangyong Actyon ute, my Olympus Tough U camera and my Blackberry Bold 9000.

The three of them give me freedom, the ability to record and remember things and the ability to communicate even when I am away from my desk or office -reducing my stress and not tying me down.

The Ssangyong has been great.  OK it is not the most powerful UTE on the market, nor is it the most capable off-road.  But inside it is pretty comfortable and it is really easy to drive and just a lot of fun.  It get’s me there and back and did not cost a whole heap of money.

Already I have taken it to Exmouth in the North and Albany in the South and Bunbury in the West… thousands of kilometers of open road, dirt tracks and gravel trails.  She has never complained and has performed beautifully, eating up the miles and is just a lot of fun!

It is so easy to chuck the camping gear in the back throw a tarp over it and head on out….. at the same time, during the week she is a comfortable easy to drive business vehicle with impeccable road manners.

The Blackberry is also a freedom machine.  Now I can send and receive email and SMS’s and telephone calls pretty much anywhere.  Down by the river, the lake, on the road…. it makes life so easy.  Although not quite the fully featured communication center I would ideally like the Bold comes pretty close with a very high ‘ease of use rating’ and excellent functionality.

Finally the Olympus Tough U guy……

What can I say?  This is my second one…. the first proved not so tough but Olympus did replace it and this little fellah has been fine.  I can stuff him on any pocket… even a back one…. sit on it…. take him to the river or sea and not worry about him getting wet…. take him to a party and not care if the kids spill coke or ice cream over him….anyway he is washable…….I take him everywhere and take happy snaps…. Ok maybe not the best photographs….but I am not the best photographer…. :-)

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Best Travel Investment – noise cancelling headphones

Whether you are a frequent flyer or not, you will undoubtedly have seen people using their own headphones on international flights.  I had read al lot about noise cancelling headphones and had wanted to try some for a long time but the price had deterred me – - anything up to and over $600.00 for some models.  So it was with some degree of scepticism that I picked up a pair of Philips noise cancelling headphones from a clearance bin in Perth.  Surely not?  $40.00! 

I am a great believer in the old adage that ‘if is too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true’.  But what the heck?!  I had a quick trip to the USA coming up and I would probably be back before Harvey Normans 30 day money back warranty was.

Well I am telling you!  You could not drag these things away from me now!  The increased comfort when flying due to (greatly) reduced noise; the comfortable padded earphones; the joy of being able to listen to things at a fraction of the volume.  Wow!  What a product!

I don’t know what peace and increased comfort are worth to you but given the number of long flights I take I am more than happy with my investment and they have become an essential part of my travel kit.

The Philips ones I have SBC HN110 are obviously budget versions and only claim to cancel about 85%  of the noise.  But as far as I am concerned they have dramatically improved my quality of life when travelling.

One day I will splash out and buy one of the ‘top of the range’ version like the Bose Quiet Comfort or similar that claim as closer to 100% noise reduction and much greater fidelity.  But in the meantime I am happy with my Philips SBC HN110 and for the price would heartily recommend them.

A great product at a great price!

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A word to the wise on buying footwear. (My dumb mistake.)

A word to the wise on buying footwear. (My dumb mistake.)                

Please don’t laugh!  Well not so that  I can hear you anyway.  But this is the story of how I nearly crippled myself with the wrong footwear/boots/hiking shoes.

 …. So there I was in Melbourne with a few hours to kill so I went on the hunt for a decent pair of hiking shoes or boots as my old ones were worn out – literally I had worn holes in the soles!  Proud stuff eh.  But pride comes before a fall and this is a typical example.

So I went into a good hiking supply store in Melbourne and went about choosing a new pair of footwear.  I had decided on low rise for reasons of weight and ease of putting on and taking off so I was limiting myself in that respect (another mistake I later learned).  I went through a dozen brands, Keen, Merrell, Timberland and … oh there were so many.  But I have wide feet.  More like ducks paddles than something that belongs on a human and so it is always really difficult for me to find shoes that will fit me.

In the end I found a pair of Columbia’s that were just right.  Did the deal and paid and walked out of the store with my new hiking shoes stashed proudly under my arm.

The first trek I used them on was a 22K section of the Cape to Cape.

All went well for the first few K’s but after a while they became increasingly uncomfortable.  Now this is a tough section of the trail; it was hot; we were hiking over 600 million year old coral thrown up from the sea; along cliffs; through sand, bush and grassland.  Incredibly diverse and beautiful but the pain from my feet made it hard for me to appreciate things as much as I would normally.

By the end of the hike I was crippled.   Could barely walk!  I had suppurating sores on my heels the length of my thumb and my feet felt like they  had been through a meat grinder.

It took over a month before I could walk properly again without pain.  Six weeks before I was more or less healed.  And only last week I went out to buy a new pair of boots… having sworn my feet would never touch those dreaded things again.

So there I was again in a store trying on dozens of pairs of shoes and boots… the Keens, the Merrells, Hi-tec and brand and no-brand……

In the end it was another pair of Columbia’s that I left with but it was only when I got home that the realization really hit me.

The new Columbia’s were fine… so what was wrong with the old ones???!!!

So then I checked the size label and realized what had happened!  The ones I had trekked the Cape to Cape in were a size and a half too small!  I had tried on so many pairs of shoes in the store that (I am sure accidentally) the assistant had put the wrong pair of shoes in the box.  Instead of putting the size UK 12’s in the bag she had picked up another pair identical but a size and half smaller and that was what I walked out of the shop with and did the hike with.

In the end my mistake.  My fault….. I should have checked.  So anyway I have a great pair of Columbia hiking shoes if anyone wants them….  …. And my new boots are great!  They are the right size.

I also learned on the trail that I at least need high tops… I need that extra ankle support.  Without it I tend to roll a lot on the trail and I nearly did my ankles in a number of times.

So lesson learned:   Choose the best shoes/boots for you but make sure you are walking out the store with the ones that you selected.  Don’t be a dummy like me and find out on the trail!

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My First Find

Friday the skip arrived while I was out working. So yesterday started with me digging up the old lawn and loading it into the skip. I had arranged for someone to come and help me …. Do it? …. But they cancelled at the last minute. Such is life.

So I loaded the wheelbarrow with sod and sand and tipped it into the skip for about two or three hours. I got a surprising amount done and probably moved about 2 or 3 cubic meters or so. In the afternoon I was limping around though……very stiff indeed. Felt like an 80 year old.

Then today I started the day by pretty much finishing the job putting another 1 or 2 cubes in the skip – so it is pretty much full now, then I showered, looked for a Geocache near me on the computer, loaded up the ute and off I went.

My target was called 1872 Ginga. The instructions explain that there is an 8K round trip hike from a point about 25K from my house. (My GPS shows I did 9.71K and a moving average of 5.4Kmh – perhaps because I took a diversion off the trail for a short while).

It is a pleasant drive out towards Jarrahdale and I was there in no time as there was little traffic.

After parking up I quickly figured out which way to go and followed the well marked and maintained trail. The trail leads through Jarrah forest alongside a disused railway track before cutting off up and over some pretty steep hills. They may only have been about 500M high but there were a few of them and they were quite steep so it made for a good workout.

I guess it was about 1K into the hike when I realised that I had left my ‘phone in the car! Duh! Earlier I had realised that I had left my camera at home too!! Double DuH!

So anyway, no pictures of the lovely walk the rolling hills and steep trails or the bubbling brook besieged by bees drinking from the water. No pictures of the dead kangaroo (maybe just as well); nothing of the live ones either; no pictures of the hives in the middle of the forest…… be it.

The cache was in the fork of a hollow tree and I signed the log, took a Geocoin and left a dinosaur and a beetle ball. It was good fun and got me out there to a new place I have never been. It kind of gave meaning and history to the hike. My first find.

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