University of Queensland in Brisbane

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC popped over to Brisbane last week, to check out the two main campuses of the University of Queensland (UQ). My previous post includes moody shots of Ipswich and some fish in a library. Now for the lowdown on the big smoke itself.

My impressions? A university with character, in a city of character, owned by a river full of attitude.

The book I’m in

The Intercept, by Dick Wolf. Fast, believable action.

Recommended accommodation

Manor Apartment Hotel, 289 Queen Street, Brisbane. It’s in the centre of the city. The service is friendly, the rooms are roomy, and the breakfast is excellent.

Travel tip

Take a ferry trip down the river. It’s not always the fastest way of getting from A to B, but it’s a great way of seeing the city and relaxing at the same time. The ferry ride from the Eagle Street Pier to the UQ campus (St Lucia) takes about half an hour.

The photos

Me on a map of Brisbane, on a podium, on the top of Mount Coot-Tha:

Me and a map of Brisbane

The dark squiggly line running across the map is the river.

A view of the city of Brisbane, from the viewing site on Mount Coot-Tha:

Brisbane seen from Mount Coot-Tha

The St Lucia campus is further inland by a couple of bends of the river. In this picture, you can see the wall of the great court that lies in the centre of the UQ’s St Lucia campus. It’s to the right of the patch of river, in front of the four poles rising up from the bridge:

Another view from Mt Coot-Tha

St Stephen’s cathedral, Brissie:

Cathedral of St Stephen in Brisbane

“Brissie”, pronounced “Brizzy”, is the locals’ rather irreverent name for their city.

We took the ferry from the CBD to the university’s St Lucia campus. Here’s the striking Kurilpa Bridge, seen from the ferry:

Kurilpa Bridge

Before depositing you on shores academical, this worm would like to take you on a diversion semiotical. Take a look at the sign below, which this worm spotted on a lavatory door at the end of a queue of women:

Lavatory sign

The women in the queue ignored this door. Instead, with great patience and forbearance, they were waiting in line for a single toilet, which had a sign containing just three pictures: the figure of a woman, a wheelchair, and a baby-changing platform. The patient queue assumed the first toilet (shown above) was for disabled people only, and the second was for everyone. The TC, bless her cotton socks, piped up that she was sure it was OK to use the disabled toilet. Imagine her delighted surprise, and that of everyone else in the queue, to discover six vacant toilets behind the above door, all ready and waiting for “ambulant” people’s use.

So, this worm muses, past experience has conditioned us to expect a special toilet for disabled people and to assume the difficult word “ambulant” is yet another term for “disabled”. And we don’t read.

Here’s another diversion. This worm as vastly amused to see the following sign in the hotel lobby. Shades of Sweeney Todd?

Doors at the end of the hotel lobby

A closer look:

The words on the sign

Moving on from dark humour to the light of academia, this is the outside wall of the magnificent great court at UQ’s St Lucia campus:

Outside the great court

Inside is spacious and restful:

Inside the great court

The detail on the walls:

The inside walls of the great court

One of the grotesques, rather gentler than many of that ilk:

A close view of one of the heads on the wall

That’s all for today, dudes.

University of Queensland in Ipswich

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC hopped up to Brisbane and Ipswich last week, to visit the two main campuses of the University of Queensland (UQ). Our first stop was Ipswich, about 40 kilometres to the west of Brisbane. The UQ Ipswich campus caters for students in the medical and health sciences, as well as arts and education.

My impressions? There’s more to Ipswich than you might think.

The book I’m in

A Nameless Witch, by A. Lee Martinez. This is a truly delightful book, especially for those of us who like a good dose of fun with our fantasy. The hapless hero of the book, a witch without name, suffers temptations both carnal and carnivorous, and manages to conquer an evil sorcerer to boot.

Recommended restaurants

Urban Pantry, 181 Brisbane Street, Ipswich. A great place for coffee, cakes, pastries, and lunch. The welcome is friendly, the food good. Photo below.

Travel tip

Look out for cane toads. Disappointingly, this worm spotted nary a one, but I’m reliably informed the city of Ipswich is hopping with them.

The photos

There’s no photograph of me, your intrepid Travelling Worm, in this post! I do assure you I was there, but I managed to dodge the TC’s camera for a few hours. Rest assured, there’s the obligatory homage to me in my next post, snapped when we were making our way to Brisbane. For now, please enjoy these images of Ipswich.

We climbed to the top of the water tower on Denmark Hill, to get a view of the city of Ipswich. This is the tower, with the staircase leading up to the top:

Water tower on Denmark Hill

A view of sky and layered hills, from the top of the tower:

A view from the top of the water tower

The Old Flour Mill in Ipswich is currently undergoing renovation. A few shops and restaurants have already opened their doors inside this attractive building:

The Old Flour Mill

Another interesting edifice on Brisbane Street, Ipswich:

A building in Brisbane Street

Goleby’s building in Brisbane Street:

Goleby's building in Brisbane Street, Ipswich

Another aspect of the same building:

Another aspect of Goleby's building

More of Brisbane Street, including the Urban Pantry – an excellent lunch venue. It’s to the left of the middle of the photo, on the ground floor, with a light brown facade:

Urban Pantry on Brisbane Street

We strolled around the Ipswich campus of the University of Queensland. It’s nicely laid out, with plenty of space and pleasing spaces. This is a view of a main thoroughfare, taken from inside the medical school:

On the UQ Ipswich campus

The library is gorgeous. This bookworm was sorely tempted to take up permanent residence:

The library

A river runs through it. Yes, through the library. With fish:

Fish in the library

Join me in my next post for a look at the big smoke, Brisbane, and the UQ campus there.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a couple of days in New Orleans this week. One morning we braved the thunder storms and the warnings of flash flooding, to go on the Honey Island Swamp Tour with Cajun Encounters.

My impressions? Trees, trees’ knees, reflections of trees, and hidden danger.

The book I’m in

Wool, by Hugh Howey.

Travel tip

In my last post, I recommended that you watch out for people who don’t blink, as they may not be what they seem. Now this worm can inform you that alligators do blink, so you can trust that they are what they seem.

The photos

Me, your intrepid travelling worm, about to set out on the swamp tour:

01-IMG_4772

At the start of the tour we were on a wide river with swampy banks on each side:

02-IMG_4777

This vertical-lift bridge is in working order. The entire bridge, including the house in the middle, rises up the towers to let higher craft pass underneath. Our boat captain said you need to call about four hours beforehand if you want the bridge to lift:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Water lilies on the river bank:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Witch’s hair lichen drapes the trees:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Are those all lily pads amongst the trees? The powerful zoom on the TC’s camera reveals a usurper:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

A snake coils comfortably on a tree trunk. I’m not sure what type of snake it is. Maybe a Copperhead:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Reflections of trees wobble in the boat’s wake:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Another quiet scene of lilly pads, trees and reflections. The TC is fond of such scenes:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

All is quiet, nothing stirs:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Yet danger lurks ever close by. Here, in the bank next to the boat, a Cottonmouth rests:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Locals build their houses safely above flood level:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Right next door, someone thinks the safe level is even higher. A reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, our guide informs us:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Alligators smile on a log:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Inexorable beauty:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Do alligators like marshmallows? Watch this video to find out:

That’s all for today, dudes.

New Orleans views and vampires

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in New Orleans for just two days. This city is gorgeous. Colour and light, in the buildings and the people. Tourists at play. Locals working hard for a living.

My impressions? An abundance of stories.

And the vampires? Join me in a journey from light to dark, if you dare.

The book I’m in

Wool, by Hugh Howey. The TC is about half way through the book. It looks like the IT crowd are the baddies. This worm whole-heartedly approves of this choice of reading matter.

Travel tip

Drop in on Bourbon Street at dusk. It rocks. Literally.

And watch out for people who don’t blink. They may not be what they seem.

Pronunciation tip

To say “New Orleans” like a local, pronounce it as “Norlns”. And go heavy on the “or” part.

Recommended accommodation

Hotel Mazarin, 730 Bienville Street, New Orleans. Clean, comfortable, and conveniently located in the French Quarter. Just a single complaint from the TC: Our room was near a generator, which emitted a constant uncomfortable hum and high-pitched squeal.

Recommended restaurant

Olivier’s, 204 Decatur Street, New Orleans. Tasty Creole food, excellent and caring service.

The photos

Me on the streests of New Orleans, with the city seal:

New Orleans and vampires

A view from the aeroplane on our way in, showing the city centre on the bend of the Mississipi river The bridge is actually two bridges, forming the Crescent City Connection:

New Orleans and vampires

The beautiful, wide Canal Street, which runs along the edge of the French Quarter and leads down to the Mississipi River:

New Orleans and vampires

Jazz Gumbo in Canal Street:

New Orleans and vampires

The Mississippi River:

New Orleans and vampires

A tasty and colourful dish of Creole food from Olivier’s in Decatur Street:

New Orleans and vampires

A colourful row of houses in the French Quarter of New Orleans:

New Orleans and vampires

A mule wending its way through the French Quarter. The TC was taking a photograph of the gallery above, and the interesting door at bottom right, when the mule wandered into the shot:

New Orleans and vampires

Many of the buildings are decorated with ornate ironwork, which the TC calls “broekie lace”. This ornate gallery sports a drape showing the New Orleans fleur-de-lis, used all over the city to symbolise its recovery since Hurricane Katrina:

New Orleans and vampires

Renovating a lovely house:

New Orleans and vampires

Are you ready to share a slide down the slippery slope into another world? It begins here:

New Orleans views and vampires

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo:

New Orleans views and vampires

This worm, hob-nobbing with the zombies and voodoo dolls:

New Orleans views and vampires

A palm reader in Bourbon Street:

New Orleans views and vampires

As dusk draws in, Bourbon Street hots up:

New Orleans views and vampires

And the serious dudes move in. The TC and I dared to do a ghost and vampire tour with Lord Chaz:

New Orleans views and vampires

How does a vampire use a mobile phone? With a pen, of course:

New Orleans views and vampires

One of the eeriest spots on the tour was the nunnery next to St Mary’s Catholic Church. The attic windows are permanently closed, with dormers that are nailed shut. As our tour guide pointed out, this is most unusual in New Orleans, especially in edifices from the days before air conditioning. The attic windows form an essential cooling function. This sealed attic is the source of the belief that New Orleans has vampire inhabitants, and has had them for generations. We also heard perplexing and inexplicable stories of women shipped to New Orleans with arrays of 5-sided coffins, all to disappear into the nunnery. And hundreds of dead babies under the wall. This has to be the spookiest place to be, especially when you’re there with a being who doesn’t blink. As we were:

New Orleands views and vampires

This woman, all unknowing, is leaning against a lamp post on the most dangerous corner of  New Orleans. In the house above her, the Carter brothers murdered 18 people by drinking their blood through their wrists. A little girl escaped one night, after suffering through five nights of feasting, and the Carter brothers were at last brought to justice. But later when the city opened the Carter brothers’ graves, they found nothing. The brothers had vanished. And since then, so the stories go, New Orleans has suffered from numerous serial killers, some apprehended, some not. There’s one active right now ….

New Orleans views and vampires

That’s all for today, dudes.

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

This week me and the TC spent four days in Atlanta, Georgia. That’s in the deep south of the United States, where people speak with a delightful slow drawl and are very, very polite. They also say “y’all” to get around the lamentable lack of a second-person plural in the English language. The deep south is also the home of deep-fried everything. A picture in the post proves it.

The TC spent most of her time working hard at a conference. This worm spent most of my time on the same page of the book I’m currently in, because the TC didn’t have much time to read.

We did get out one evening, to do the famous Atlanta Ghost Tour.

My impressions? Wide quiet streets, imposing churches, boarded-up buildings, and shiny office blocks. Not many ghosts materialised. To be exact, not a one. But the tour was fun anyway. A good way to see the night-time streets of Atlanta.

The book I’m in

Wool, by Hugh Howey. The TC has only just started this science fiction novel. This worm is enthralled by the characters and their situation, and keen to know more. I’ll have to prod the TC to get a move on.

Travel tip

If your bag keeps falling off your shoulder, or you feel a tap on your arm, or your hat lifts off your head, there’s a ghost in the ‘hood.

Recommended accommodation

Hyatt Regency Atlanta, at 265 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta. The TC is attending a conference, so we’re residing in the conference hotel. It’s a large, well-organised and very pleasant place to stay. Highly recommended for location, service and comfort.

Recommended restaurant

Ted’s Montana Grill, 133 Luckie Street, Atlanta. Excellent service, a friendly ambience, and plenty of character. The food is tasty too.

The photos

Me cowering in a park opposite the eerily-named and ghost-ridden Medical Arts building in Atlanta:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

Our tech-savvy band of ghost-busters brandished various electronic gadgets to aid in the search. Below is the Ghost Radar app on my iPhone. This screenshot shows the Ghost Radar has picked up two presences. The red blip is emitting the strongest phantom vibes ,the yellow has medium strengths:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

The leader of the ghost tour brought along a couple of K2 ghost meters, powerful detectors of spirit presence:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

What struck me is the way the churches muddle in with the city’s glossy sky scrapers:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

Outside the Medical Arts building, the K2 devices picked up a ghost. She’s well known. Her name is Sally, and she reputedly can tell creepy stories of the medical experiments carried out on hapless patients in the Medical Arts building of old.

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

We took a closer look at the Medical Arts building, later the same evening. Yes, we looped back for more chills:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

This is the door. Knock if you dare:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

The leader of our ghost tour told us the sad story of the Ellis Hotel in Peachtree Street, Atlanta. This building, then called the Winecoff Hotel, was the location of America’s most deadly hotel fire. Candy Kid, a well-known local thief, set the fire on purpose, because he wanted to kill a particular man.  The intended victim escaped, and 119 died in his stead. Unsurprisingly, there are reports of many hauntings in and around the Ellis Hotel:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

Many people take photos of this church, only to find a ghost or two in the shot. Do you see any?

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

As the night grows darker, the display in an army surplus store is evocative of other worlds:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

A gas mask in the next window sends a shudder up this worm’s spine. (And my spine is not stiff, even at the best of times.)

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

The TC snapped this picture of the Atlanta city seal at the base of a lamp post. The bird is a phoenix rising from its ashes. The motto is “resurgens”, Latin for “rising again”. These symbolise the rebuilding of the city after it was destroyed in the American Civil War.

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

To finish off with, I’d like to lighten the tone. Looking for proof that they fry everything in the deep south? Look no further:

Ghosts in Atlanta GA

That’s all for today, dudes.

Table Mountain – what’s it like on top?

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were in Cape Town, South Africa, last week. We spent a day on Table Mountain. This worm has been there before (blogged too). The top of the mountain is one of the TC’s favourite places to be. This worm is fond of it too, though it can be a trifle draughty. I find myself hanging onto my hat, and the TC hanging onto me. It’s lucky one of us is the strong and silent type.

My impressions? A place of quiet and beauty.

The book I’m in

The Secret She Kept, by Amelia Carr. Tangled secrets, tangled emotions. The TC is moving me through this well-written book at a good pace.

Travel tip

If the mountain is clear, go up it. Do not delay. Tomorrow may never come. Or the cloud may roll in.

The photos

Me at Maclear’s beacon on top of Table Mountain:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

We walked across the top of the mountain to Maclear’s Beacon. It’s a two-hour hike there and back, mostly flat with a short scramble when crossing from the front table to the back table. Great views, unique vegetation. Sir Thomas Maclear (1794 – 1879) was the queen’s astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope. He was a good friend of David Livingstone. One of the craters on the moon is named after him. Hmph, pretty famous, I suppose. He didn’t have a blog, though, unlike this worm.

Maclear’s beacon is at the highest point of Table Mountain – more than a kilometer up, at 1085 metres) It’s not much to look at: Just a heap of stones, built  to act as a trigonometrical beacon. Still, it’s a good destination to aim for.

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

A view of Table Mountain draped in cloud, seen from the Waterfront in Cape Town. The TC took this photo after we intrepid explorers had come back down the mountain. You can just make out the top cable car station, towards the midlle-right of the photo where the cloud cover ends:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

What on earth is that giant Lego man doing there? He is 18 metres high, made of 4200 Coca-Cola crates. A little bird told this worm the statue is called “Elliot” and is making a statement about recycling.

A close-up view of the top cable car station, with one of the cars visible near the bottom of the picture:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

The next photo shows the view from the top. Those cables swoop down at a seemingly impossible angle, don’t they. At the end of the cables is the bottom cable car station. Also in the picture is Lion’s Head, the odd-shaped hill on the left of the cables. Cape Town city is to the right. In the bay, partially obscured by the cables, you can just make out Robben Island:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

If you’re lucky enough to be at the top when the cloud moves in, you’ll see it flowing off the mountain and dissolving in the warmer air. This video also shows the coast on the west side of the mountain, ending with an eagle-eye view of Camps Bay, a popular Cape Town beach:

Walking into cloud on the mountain top is atmospheric and eerie:

The TC will take pot shots at plants wherever she goes. Pot shots with her camera, of course:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

A plant in the mist:

http://youtu.be/h9tNVNt-UPY

Another pink plant:

http://youtu.be/h9tNVNt-UPY

A protea bush:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

A protea flower in bud, with a dead bloom behind:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

Back in the pink:

Table Mountain - what's it like on top?

Walking back towards the cable car station, we chose the city side of the mountain. The cloud was advancing, swooping off the edge and rolling down towards the city:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Patting lions and licked by a giraffe in South Africa

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have recently returned from a trip to South Africa. While in Johannesburg, we visited the well-known Lion Park, in Honeydew. Get up close and personal with a lion, be licked by a giraffe, or chat to a meerkat.

This post is mostly about lions. But I’ll tell you a bit about Johannesburg while we’re at it. In contrast to my usual adventure-filled writings, this is a post in which a whole lot of nothing happens. But it’s attractive nothingness, with just a hint of hidden violence.

I see that the Lion Park has a celebrity wall. This worm is sure they’ll add my picture to it soon!

My impressions? Somnabulance.  Slow-moving pedestrians on shimmering pavements. Umbrellas wavering in the haze of the summer heat. Barbed wire atop high walls. Electrified fences. Gorgeous shopping. Intense industry. Building, ever building. Chaotic crossroads. Hawkers. Quality and squalour. Awesome. Much inthe last few sentences describes the lions too. The giraffe is all awesome.

The book I’m in

Code to Zero, by Ken Follett. Titbits of rocket science, Soviet spies, CIA and NASA. Just want you want for a good, fast read.

Travel tip

If you’re going to get licked by a giraffe, have a wet wipe handy.

The photos

Me looking nonchalant, with lion looking uncomfortably interested:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

I twaut I taw a puddy tat:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

Sleeping lions – that’s all that happens in this video, honest:

Lions are not always dignified:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

And then, that effortless dignity of the jungle king:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

I was safely inside the car with the TC when she took this photo:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

Safely? When a lion is just a few feet away and looking right at you, the thin metal of a car door seems a flimsy barrier.

The other denizens of the park provide some light relief:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

You’ve just gotta love a face like that.

Fancy being licked by a giraffe?

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

The TC discovered that a giraffe’s tongue is long and slightly rough to the touch. The saliva is plentiful and sticky.

Patting lions and licked by a giraffe in South Africa

Mmmm:

Lions and a giraffe outside Johannesburg, South Africa

That’s all for today, dudes.

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have just returned from a trip to sunny South Africa. One day we drove to the Magaliesberg mountain range, near Johannesburg. We headed up in the cable car to catch the view, then drove round the Hartbeespoort Dam.

The TC, bless her cotton socks, keeps humming a ditty from her childhood in South Africa (the RSA):

Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet

Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet

They go together, in the good old RSA

Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet

She’s even found it on YouTube. Ah, “the horror, the horror,” this worm weakly whispers.

My impressions? Sunny skies, a touch of chaos, some green scum, and many friendly people.

The book I’m in

I, Spy? (Sophie Green Mysteries, No 1) by Kate Johnson. A good, humorous read. The TC read the book on a Kindle. I felt a bit of an outsider, worming my way in and nibbling at the words whenever I could. The electronic bookmarks littering the pages were ten a penny and rather characterless, I feel.

Recommended restaurant

Squires on the Dam, Hartbeespoort Dam (opposite snake park). Things were a little rocky at the start. Indiana Jones would have felt right at home when the roof opened up and dumped a torrent of icky-smelling water all over the TC. This worm had to make a quick run for cover. My cardboard constitution is not compatible with water. But the restaurant staff recovered quickly, as did the TC, and our party of 13 people had a good meal and plenty of fun.

Travel tip

When travelling by air in South Africa, don’t put anything valuable in a suitcase that you’re checking into the hold. The TC’s luggage was rifled through on her trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

The photos

Me and a green doringboom, the famous thorn tree of Gauteng. Grandma, what big thorns you have!

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

A cable car going up to the top of the Magaliesberg:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

The view from part way up:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

The green roof at the end of the cables is the lower cable station. Behind that is the Hartbeespoort Dam.

Another view from part way up:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

Off to the right of the picture is the dam wall.

The top cable station is quite pretty:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

Me gracing a plaque about “Harties”, as the locals call Hartbeespoort Dam:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

The vegetation at the top is scrubby and grassy:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

We came across the occasional flower:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

A worm’s eye view of a sprig of grass:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

Things can be pretty when viewed from underneath:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

More from a worm’s perspective:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

We came back down via cable car, and continued our drive around the Hartbeespoort Dam. This is the Romanesque archway that guards the dam wall:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

The dam wall:

Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg, South Africa

I’ll leave you with this idyllic picture of emerald green water… Wait! The end of this video is not for the squeamish:

Why is the water green? This worm heard many theories from concerned South Africans. Tons of raw sewage pumped into the dam. Nuclear waste from the nearby Pelindaba nuclear power plant. Uranium-containing water from nearby goldmines. Algae. Weeds. You name it, Harties suffers from it. Ag siestog, man.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Colleges, punts, bowler hats and gargoyles in Oxford

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC stayed in Abingdon for a week this month, using it as a central point from which to visit friends and family in England. One morning we found ourselves in the nearby big smoke: Oxford.

My impressions? Mellow stone. Autumn melancholy.

The book I’m in

Harvesting the Heart, by Jodi Picoult. This worm is an admirer of Jodi Picoult, and has spent time in a couple of her books. But Harvesting the Heart is not her best, I feel. Ms Picoult’s books are by their nature intense. Usually they have a flair and an interesting theme that lifts you out of the depression. This time, although I’m well into the book already, that flair has not yet appeared. I feel the urge to tell the characters to snap out of it and get on with life. Perhaps this worm is not in the mood for this book at the moment.

Travel tip

Go inside any of the buildings that grant you entry. The inside is as good as the out.

Recommended restaurant

Quod Brasserie, on the High Street in Oxford. Good service and reasonably good food, in the old banking hall of the Old Bank Hotel.

The photos

Me inside the Oxford Town Hall. Note the ominous creature looming over me. The TC does put me in the most awkward situations, for the sake of a holiday snap:

The Oxford government website describes the Town Hall as a “magnificent grade 2* Victorian building”. This worm wondered briefly about the meaning of “2*” and decided he gives it a grade 1^:

Another view of the inside of the town hall:

The modest entrance to Christ Church College:

Peering in to the quad, we encountered this dude, who was studiously not guarding the entrance. This worm admires the bowler hat and noncommittal slouch:

Moving on, we came across Magdalen College:

The college walls are encrusted with sculptures. Two people embrace:

Nearby a gargoyle grimaces:

Punts tethered on the River Cherwell, next to Magdalen College:

A poignant moment, courtesy of this worm – the punts are filled with water and autumn leaves, and shadowy reflections of the bare trees above:

The TC, bless her cotton socks, has visited Oxford a few times. She delights in telling us that, for her, the city is characterised by the mellow colour of the stone. Here is the museum:

Chequers Courtyard and The Chequers pub, which dates back to the 1500s:

The Chequers boasts a giant in its history, and is still haunted by the screams of dying monks from one of its less salubrious periods. The badge on the wall tells all:

The High Street, with a rare patch of colour complementing the usual stony grandeur:

Let’s leave the big smoke and take a look at the ducks in Abingdon, at the join of the rivers Thames and Ock:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Bletchley Park, home of the code breakers

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were bowling down the A421 in England, when we saw the sign for Bletchley Park. On a whim, and with half an hour to spare, we followed the sign.

Bletchley Park is where the British decryption experts worked during World War II, to decrypt signals from Germany and other Axis countries. The most famous German encryption machines were the Enigma machines.

The museum at Bletchley Park has a number of German Enigma machines, as well as some British encoders. It also has the Turing Bombe – that’s the machine they used to decode the Enigma codes during World War II.

This worm wishes we had had longer to examine the machines and read all the information in more detail.

My impressions? Intensely interesting to see the machines and read the information provided. Also eery to walk around the grounds and see the mansion and the huts where everything happened.

The book I’m in

Terror’s Reach, by Tom Bale. Good fast action, with believable characters. An author to find more of.

Travel tip

Drop in on Bletchley Park if you have time. It’s well worth it.

The photos

Me with one of the German Enigma encoders:

Another of the Enigma machines, this one used by the Abwehr (Secret Service):

The Turing Bombe was designed by Alan Turing to decode messages from the German Enigma machine. Experts at Bletchley Park are currently rebuilding the Bombe, so there was a group of people buzzing around it, fiddling with wires and watching the bits and bobs turn.

The other side of the Bombe, with the back open for inspection:

A British Typex encoder:

Hut 4, next to the Bletchley manor:

The manor:

That’s all for today, dudes.

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