Tea Tree Gully Library staff are definitely globetrotters. At any given time of year, there are always staff travelling and scaling the grobe, discovering new territory and encountering new cultures.
In 2014, staff have again travelled widely, including trips to the USA, Africa, Japan, China and South America, as well as adventures closer to home here in Australia.
We’ve gathered a few of their travel anecdotes and pics here for you to enjoy!
Sonya’s USA Trip
Sonya, no rookie when it comes to overseas travel, has visited six of the seven continents on this planet. On a recent US visit she visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, open now for four years. She says: I just went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It’s at Universal Studios, Orlando Florida. There’s a miniature sized snow-topped Hogsmeade Village with all the favourite Harry Potter characters. The centrepiece is Hogwarts Castle and inside is a great simulator ride that has you on a roller coaster adventure with Harry, Ron and Hermione. As you roam the village you can have lunch, (a hearty English fare) at the 3 Broomsticks, and tuck in to some yummy butterbeer! Actors roam the streets in robes and perform small skits for visitors.
Out of Africa – Chris’ amazing experience
From the first world to the third, Chris talks about his unscheduled, yet life changing stop in the African village of Mpumba.
Sitting beside me on the old rickety mini bus late at night was a young local girl and her friend. Eventually I spoke up, and introduced myself. We discussed the usual – of where I had been and where I was going. I could see they were not sure of my ability to continue alone, and so Pamela, the one sitting closest to me asked if I would prefer to stay at their house for the night, and make my way to the hostel in town tomorrow during daylight. Chris took the offer and followed them back through their village to their house. He was introduced to the family, who were tobacco farmers. He continues: After an hour, Pamela returned, she brought out an impressive dinner. She had spent the last hour over a fire cooking away to feed us all. We sat in a circle, sharing this food, and I could not help but smile. I was invited into a home, fed, given a bed and treated as a life long friend and I had only just met them a few hours before on a bus in the middle of Africa. My friendship grew with this family and I stayed and worked with them for many days. Whether it was fetching water, working on the tobacco farms, helping to cook, I was treated as a true brother. They truly shared the pure kindness of a human being.
Helen and Penny heart Japan
Penny first visited Tokyo as a 17-year-old exchange student, and dreamt of returning some time to live and work. Ten years later she realised this dream.
At 27, I quit my job, to live in the Land of the Rising Sun and become an English teacher in primary schools. I lived in the regional city of Takatsuki, located halfway between Osaka and Kyoto, which made it the perfect base for exploring and domestic travel. I travelled to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima several times, which are all amazing but some of the most interesting places I visited are much less-known.
One of these was the island of Naoshima, located off the coast of Okayama. Naoshima is dotted with contemporary art galleries, built into the hills to soak up ocean and island views. One of the main galleries, Benesse House, consists of four buildings all designed by renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando. It’s filled with works from artists all over the world, including Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Yayoi Kusama. One of the main pleasures of the island is encountering the large sculptures and artworks outside, whilst taking in the views of Japan’s Inland Sea region. For those who like their art near the sea, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Another highlight for me was Shigaraki, a small town world famous for pottery located in the central Shiga Prefecture. Artisans have been making pottery here since ancient times and the area is rich with locally mined clay. The entire main street was lined with stores selling ceramics and in each store I visited, you could see ceramic artists working on their new designs. I bought 3 hand-crafted ceramic teapots when I was there and they are a nice reminder of Shigaraki when I drink green tea, my favourite hot beverage.
Helen adds for prospective Japan tourists; A visit to a cat cafe or a maid cafe is always a highlight! For transport gunzels, travelling by Shinkansen up and the country is a fabulous experience. Ensure you pick-up food from the supermarket before you jump aboard…. And if you are unable to identify it there is no doubt it will be fabulous!
Even though it’s 8000km due north, Japan shares the same timezone as us, so it’s generally jetlag free!
Over on our Facebook we talked about some new Japan resources that had recently come in. If you’ve been to Japan head over to that post and add what you recommend to see. Also, if you’re planning a trip, we have the most recent Lonely Planet and Eyewitness guides as well as a huge range of other Japan highlights books.
Tricia’s trip to China
Tricia talks about her travels through China. The land of the ‘unexpected’ – a vast and complex country with many layers of culture, political upheaval and history and amazing contrasts of ultra modern mega cities and beautiful idyllic wilderness.
Visiting China for 3 weeks only scratches the surface of this nation of friendly and inquisitive people we gave it our best shot visiting of the most well-known sites.
First stop was the walled city of Xian. Xian typifies China with its mix of ancient architecture, culture and antiquities contrasting with the modern business and hotel districts. Followed by Beijing, including the Olympic village and a number of amazing cultural shows combining Chinese acrobatics, humour and culture with wonderful banquets. Treasures such as the Terracotta Warriors, The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, Tai Chi in the park, the Winter Palace and so much more were explored and climbed and photographed! Our Library travel guide was invaluable for locating many of these sites.She recites a hilarious misunderstanding on her last day:
Our guide in China was a lovely, friendly man called Sandy ( his western name) who promised to give us a special present at the end.
What could we give him in return that wasn’t the usual kangaroo or koala made in China? I decided we should give Sandy my tube of Vegemite which, I have to travel with no matter how far that may be. It was a sacrifice I was prepared to make to ensure our gift was of a comparable nature and cultural significance to the one he’d no doubt provide us.
Sandi was gracious in his acceptance and promptly proceeded to smear it all over his arms, face and neck. “It’s a sunscreen right?”
If we had to choose just one adjective to describe our China adventure I think it would be unexpected. Unexpectedly easy to travel within, organised, beautiful, charming, contrasting and comfortable. The people are friendly, knowledgeable, more open than we expected in discussing Chinese politics and we felt very lucky and privileged to have had even this small trip to such a great destination.
Ticking Easter Island off the Bucket List
Easter Island has been at the top of Library manager Helen’s travel list for years . However, as the most remote inhabited island in the world, located some 3000km from Chile (the ‘closest’ mainland) travelling there takes some planning.
Helen says: I had wanted to visit for over twenty years to see the monolithic human carved moai for which the island is famous. Strangely enough, my desire came from when I started working in a public library, from shelving a book on Easter Island. I was intrigued by the images of the moai on the cover. The book was borrowed, and I marvelled at the statues, and from then wanted to see them in person.
When Helen’s partner suggested travelling to South America for a holiday, the deal was if that was the destination, then Easter Island was on the list!
Our first stop in research was the travel section of the Library, borrowing a number of the books on South America to refine our trip. One suggested catching a bus over the Andes Mountains to Santiago, the best way to see the Andes up close – in the comfort of a modern two story bus. This was added to our itinerary. We also jumped on-line to get great suggestions on accommodation options and read reviews through Trip Advisor
Organising a flight to Easter Island from Santiago is easy, but the downside is the flight is 5 hours and requires an early morning start of 5am. Despite this, it was truly worth the journey. The Island is inhabited by less than 6000 people and the main economy of the island is tourism. There is one town Hanga Roa, which is close to the airport – walking distance even!
There is great food to be had on Easter Island, especially seafood.
In the mornings, you can see the fisherman selling the fish caught that day to the locals, along with locally grown vegetables, fruit and meat. If your accommodation doesn’t enable you to cook, the restaurants in town are many and varied. There are a few good patisseries which feature great cakes and doughnuts (filled with dulcha de leche), but they also specialise in empanadas. These are very popular, especially with the locals.
The primary reason for visiting Easter Island is of course the famous Moai stautues around the island. Helen explains to tour options: There are a couple of options, you can arrange a tour with local tour companies where you get a flavour for the history, or you can hire a car and visit any site at your own pace. Bikes are available for hire – but word of warning, if this is your preference ensure the gears can change and you have a basic puncture repair kit as you don’t want to be stuck a long way from the town with walking as your only solution.
The statues themselves are truly a marvel. The best site to visit for the statues on the whole island is Rano Raraku, where they were carved from the side of the volcano. At first the site appears as if the statues were left where they had fallen over, or still in the process of being created. The closer you get the side of the volcano you can see outlines of a variety of statues which were in the process of being created. Just ensure you have good walking shoes!
It definitely sounds like Easter Island is a great place to visit. If this has sparked interest for you, start your research on Easter Island today!
Kathy’s Outback Aussie Adventure
This year Kathy had an adventure little closer to home.
An avid 4WD adventurer, Kathy and her family recently returned from far west Queensland where they attended the Big Red Bash, an outback concert on the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert. Not for the faint-hearted, a trip to Big Red requires some hefty 4 wheel drive work after a less-than-leisurely 1500km trek north from Adelaide to Birdsville.
As they say, the journey is half the fun with stop-overs in remote and character filled locales like Leigh Creek, Maree, Clayton Station and Mungerannie Pub along the way.
After finding the perfect campsite at Big Red, a 4WD adventure isn’t complete without actually driving up the dunes! After some Pajero practice out in the desert, Kathy’s daughter Stacey tackled the big one with a successful ascent on her first attempt!
Starting just after dinner, the outback concert carried on over two nights featuring classic Aussie rockers, Darryl Braithwaite, James Reyne and Ross Wilson.
It’s not a 4WD adventure without the obligatory breakage of something, this time a starter motor problem ensured Kathy and family had a legitimate excuse to stay in the bush for a couple of extra days!
The Library has an extensive range of 4WD and Australian adventure resources, so come see us (and Kathy!) if you’re planning an outback Australia journey.