Wentworth Falls and Valley of the Waters, Leura

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

The TC recently spent a couple of days in Leura, a town in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I was there too, but I spent my time cosily buried in a book. The TC, brave soul that she is, went on a four-hour hike from Leura to Wentworth Falls and back. The walk is 6 to 7 kilometres in distance, with a vertical drop and ascent of 200 metres.

My impressions? To judge by the TC’s glowing face and weary limbs, this was a walk and a half. She loved it, and had sore muscles for days afterwards.

The book I’m in

Jupiter War, by Neal Asher.

Travel tip

When walking in the Blue Mountains, take plenty of water and some food. Although your intention may be to stay out only a couple of hours, weather can change and mishaps can happen.

Recommended accommodation

Fairmont Resort, 1 Sublime Point Rd, Leura NSW 2780. Comfort, warmth, and friendliness.

The photos

Looking out over the Blue Mountains from the Fairmont Resort in Leura. This is where the four-hour walk started. Early in the morning, the valley is filled with mist:

Leura, Blue Mountains

On the way to Wentworth Falls, the path takes you up and down, through forest-filled glens, under overhanging rocks, along cliff faces:

Walk to Wentworth Falls

The views are stunning:

On the way to Wentworth Falls

At the top of Wentworth Falls, the ground just ends. The water falls over the edge:

At the top of Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls, seen from the bottom:

Wentworth Falls

To get down there, you can take the National Pass, a spectacular cliff-face path of metal and rock:

National Pass, Wentworth Falls

Cockatoos frolic around the falls:

Cockatoo at Wentworth Falls

On the loop back to Leura, the TC’s group walked through the Valley of the Waters. This is a gorgeous walk, with waterfalls and hanging gardens and spectacular views. This shot is taken from behind the curtain of water that drops off the cliffs:

Valley of the Waters, Blue Mountains

Here’s a short video taken from behind the same waterfall:

The Cascades are a silver shower of water on black rock:

The Cascades, Valley of the Waters

That’s all for today, folks.

Cockatoo Island in Sydney

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 yesterday afternoon on Cockatoo Island on the Parramatta River, immediately inland of Sydney harbour. It’s a forlorn place, strewn with gravel and history.

My impressions? Sandstone, sheds and seagulls.

The book I’m in

Gidget, by Frederick Kohner. An engaging tale of a teenage surfer, written 1957. Clever use of language and style to carry along a simple story with tons of atmosphere.

Travel tip

When travelling to Cockatoo Island, take sunscreen and something to tie back your hair. (That is, if you have lots of it, as the TC does.)

The photos

Me on a metal lathe in the industrial area of Cockatoo Island:

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island, as seen on Google Maps:

Image created by Google Static Maps API: https://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/staticmap?center=-33.8475896,151.1720669&zoom=16&size=470x352&maptype=satellite

The Aboriginal name for the island is Wareamah. The Aboriginal people of the area used to come to the island to fish.  But there was no fresh water, so they didn’t live there permanently. In 1839 a governor of New South Wales decided the island was an ideal place to house prisoners and put them to work quarrying sandstone and building prison and military barracks and official residences.

The entrance to the island from the ferry wharf:

Cockatoo Island

Walking into the industrial area:

Cockatoo Island

An impressive sandstone cliff on the right as you walk in, which has survived the extensive quarrying:

Cockatoo Island

A view of Sydney Harbour Bridge from the island:

Cockatoo Island

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the island became a major ship-building site, playing a large part in ship construction and repair during World War II. Its use as a dockyard and construction facility for ships and submarines continued until 1992.

Inside a huge ship-building shed on the island:

Cockatoo Island

The magnificent machinery made this worm feel small and insignificant:

Cockatoo Island

More machinery:

Cockatoo Island

A giant crane stands guard over the Parramatta River:

Cockatoo Island

These imposing beam benders are the remains of a hydraulically-powered plate-bending machine from the 1920s, used to bend metal plates up to 9 metres long and one inch thick for ship building:

Cockatoo Island

Below is one of the slipways used to launch ships after construction. Film buffs note: The ark at the top of the slipway was created for and used in the film “Unbroken”, directed by Angelina Jolie and filmed on the island last year:

Cockatoo Island

The solitary confinement cells on the island, opened to visitors only last week, and introduced with great enthusiasm by our charming guide:

Cockatoo Island

Inside the left-most solitary-confinement cell:

Cockatoo Island

A tunnel cut through the sandstone, built in 1912, and used as an air-raid shelter during WWII:

Cockatoo Island

A view through the window of the now roofless military guardhouse:

Cockatoo Island

Below is the prison barracks, built in 1839. The convicts themselves quarried the sandstone and erected the buildings. Our guide told us that each man had a specific style when hewing sandstone. You can still see the marks in the stone used in the buildings on the island. At the end of each day, the overseers could tally each man’s work just by looking at the distinctive cuts in the stone:

Cockatoo Island

Notice the seagull nesting at the bottom of the building in the above photo? Pro tip from a wary worm: You don’t need to worry about cockatoos on the island. They all left when people cut down the trees to make room for the convicts. So now the seagulls reign supreme. Go Jonathan! Be afraid, be very afraid. As our guide said, the chicks are cute but the parents are not.

Cockatoo Island

Inside the barracks:

Cockatoo Island

A window to freedom:

Cockatoo Island

That’s all for today, dudes.

Is this a worm or a fungus – in Sydney, Australia

The TC (my Travelling Companion) spotted this weird and wonderful creature on the Wild Flower Walk at Manly Dam Reserve near Sydney, Australia. We’re intrigued. Is it a worm, or some type of fungus, or something else entirely?

It’s quite long, perhaps 10 to 12 centimetres – compare it with the gum tree leaves also visible in the photo. It’s red with pale cream extrusions at the edges. It’s attached to the vertical face of a step. It didn’t move, even when the TC prodded it gently with a stick.

At first the TC thought it was a fungus. But looking more closely at the photos, we’re leaning towards some kind of worm.

Worm or fungus?

Here is is again, from a slightly different angle. You can probably enlarge the image by clicking it, or by right-clicking and opening the image in the browser.

Worm or fungus?

If you have any ideas about what it may be, please add a comment to this post!

 

Published in: on 30 June 2014 at 5:11 pm  Comments (2)  
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A line of Processionary Caterpillars in Sydney, Australia

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).

A line of caterpillars, following each other nose to tail – have you ever seen the like? These Processionary Caterpillars were on their way to find food one morning when the TC spotted them. She seemed especially delighted that they numbered 42. We worms are wondrous folk.

The caterpillars are the larvae of the Bag-Shelter Moth, so called because they build themselves a little bag of silk to hide in. Their scientific name is Ochrogaster lunifer. The little hairs on the caterpillars can cause skin irritation, so be wary of getting too close.

A line of Processionary Caterpillars seen from afar:

Caterpillars-in-Line-ManlyDam-20April2014 020_trun

Getting closer:

Caterpillars-in-Line-ManlyDam-20April2014 017_reduced

And closer:

Caterpillars-in-Line-ManlyDam-20April2014 012_reduced

Published in: on 20 April 2014 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sydney under smoky skies

New South Wales, Australia, is battling more than 90 bush fires. The last few days have been scenes of fierce horror and deep sadness for many people. Approximately 1500 fire fighters have been battling the blazes throughout New South Wales. Close to 100 homes have been destroyed. Our fire services and volunteers are hard-working, efficient, smart and heroic.

For those of us in the city of Sydney, the fires brought smoke-filled skies and showers of ash. The weird lighting yielded some beautiful effects. It was as if someone had thrown a sepia filter over the city.

These photos show the Sydney city skyline on Thursday this week, as seen from Pyrmont.

Sydney under smoky skies, seen from Pyrmont

Clear skies to the south

The lighting changes minute by minute

Pyrmont Bridge

Pyrmont Bridge (demolishment of monorail is in progress)

From the side of Pyrmont Bridge

A closer look at the crane on the water

Published in: on 19 October 2013 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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A quarrel of cockatoos

Ever wondered what the collective noun is for a group of cockatoos? I’m proposing a “quarrel of cockatoos”. Check out my video to see why!

Internet wisdom suggests a few group names for cockatoos, like a chattering, clattering, or crackle of cockatoos. Those are good. Quarrel is used for lawyers and sparrows. But let’s add a “quarrel of cockatoos” to the collective wisdom!

Cockatoos high in a tree at Manly Dam nature reserve, New South Wales, Australia.

Published in: on 25 August 2013 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sparkling webs in the mist

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 been very busy of late. She’s writing a book! It has the somewhat unwieldy title of Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication. She wrote a blog post about it. This worm is looking forward to a comfy place in the book, when it appears at the end of January.

At times when deep in the throes of writing, me and the TC have gone out for a walk. To blow away the cobwebs. And at times there were more cobwebs outside than in.

Follow me into a wonderland of mist and sparkling cobwebs, the world of spring in the Australian bush.

The book I’m in

A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin. A grand epic worthy of any bookworm.

The photos

Me, braving the droplets and the chance of a nasty fall into wet mud, all for the sake of a snapshot:

Wordsworm dangling precariously from a dripping branch

Entering a wonderland of webs in the mist:

Webs in the mist

Sparkling cobweb wrapped around a twig:

Sparkling cobweb wrapped around a twig

Like the lights that people drape over Christmas trees:

Sparkling cobweb

Droplets shining in the early sun:

Mist droplets

The flowers of a Tea Tree amongst the droplets:

White flowers and mist droplets

Just another gorgeous sparkling web:

Just another gorgeous sparkling cobweb

And another:

And another

Cobwebs in the mist:

Cobwebs in the mist

Droplets and big yellow flowers:

Droplets and big yellow flowers

Cobwebs on curvy stems:

Cobwebs on curvy stems

A web-festooned twig:

Cobwebs on a twig

Shiny webs:

Sparkling cobwebs

More eye candy:

More eye candy

Sparkly webs around two flower buds:

More sparkly webs

Webs draped across the trees:

Webs draped across the trees

Webbed twig and yellow flowers:

Webbed twig and yellow flowers

There’s nothing like a good web to liven up a dead thicket:

Webs on dead thicket

A closer look at those webs:

Closer view of webs on dead thicket

A glistening cocoon for spiders:

Glistening cocoon

Another glistening spiders’ nest:

Another glistening cocoon

The coup de grace:

Sparkly droplets and webs

That’s all for today, dudes.

The Basin, Palm Beach, NSW Australia

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

The TC’s mum is in town! Yesterday the TC took her mum and the family to The Basin, near Palm Beach just north of Sydney. The Basin is one of the bays in the Hawkesbury waterways, on the shores of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. To reach it, catch a 20-minute ferry ride from Palm Beach.

This worm heard that the outing would involve a ferry crossing and some splashing around in a lagoon. Being a pulp fiction kind of guy, water is anathema to me. So I stayed at home and sent Naught, my trusty stunt worm, instead. You may remember Naught, from his debut in my post about Shelly Beach.

Naught’s impressions? If you’re looking for a relaxing day out of Sydney, where natural beauty and serenity vie with the kookaburras for your attention, The Basin is beaut.

Recommended eating

Take a picnic lunch. There are no restaurants or shops at The Basin, but you can grill food on the barbecues provided.

The book I’m in

After Shock, by Sam Fisher. A good action story, the second in the series about the E-Force rescue team.

Let me tell you a secret: This worm was comfortably ensconced in Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But the TC hoiked me out of there, saying her brain is too lazy for that book at the moment.

The photos

Naught, my stunt double, taking a dip in the sparkling waters of The Basin:

Naught taking a dip

Palm Beach Wharf:

Palm Beach Wharf

Heading out from Palm Beach across an arm of the Hawkesbury River, destination The Basin. Don’t be deceived by the halo. This is not Saint Wordsworm, but Naught who has already donned his protective coat:

Naught on the prow of the ferry

The heads and hills of the Hawkesbury River waterways:

The Hawkesbury River waterways

Fellow wayfarers:

A yacht sailing past

Bennets Wharf, the ferry stop before The Basin:

Bennetts Wharf

The entrance of The Basin’s lagoon, seen from the ferry:

The Basin's lagoon

The ferry approaching The Basin Wharf:

The ferry

Jonathan waits at The Basin Wharf to greet the travellers:

The Basin Wharf

Wallabies abound at The Basin. This mother has a full pouch. The pink cross struts are the feet of the little joey inside the pouch:

A wallaby with a joey in her pouch

Another wallaby on the shores of the lagoon:

A wallaby under a tree

A kookaburra takes an interest in the picnic:

Kookaburra

A bird’s eye view. Will ya look at that beak! At this stage even a stunt worm is well advised to take cover:

Kookaburra close up

That’s all for today, dudes.

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

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 not been doing much travelling recently. You may have noticed the dearth of posts from this worm. What have we been up to, you may well ask?

The TC has acquired a new toy, somewhat unimaginatively named the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. We call it the SuperZoom. It’s a point-and-shoot digital camera, with a 35-times zoom lens, going from 4.3 mm wide angle to 150.5 mm telephoto. The equivalent in 35 mm terms is 24 mm to 840 mm.

Have your eyes glazed over already? Do you feel the sudden urge to rush off into the traffic or jump over a cliff, or find some other way to put the zing back into life? Now you have the tiniest idea of what things have been like chez TC recently.

The TC ummed and ahhed for months before buying the SuperZoom. She consulted DSLR experts, read reviews and agonised over the choice. Go for a DSLR with quality “glass” (that’s a lens, folks) and total control over all aspects of the photo, but requiring a number of lenses that are expensive, cumbersome and finicky. Or go for a point-and-shoot with a single zoom lens, possibly compromising on the quality of the picture because a one-size-fits-all solution is often a compromise.

Then Canon produced the SX30 IS at around the same time as the TC decided against a DSLR. Decision made, and in the process the TC had learned a whole lot about just why the DSLR enthusiasts were worried that the SX30 IS might yield disappointing results.

F-stops and apertures, exposure times and ISO speeds, bracketing and exposure bias, focal length, depth of field… It’s fascinating stuff. Especially when you realise that most of the terminology and skills were developed to suit photography done with 35mm film, and that folks now just kind of morph the same terminology into the digital world, where it kind of works. Yes, fascinating stuff. So the TC tells me.

My impressions? For a details-oriented person like the TC, this photography lark looks to be an interesting occupation. From the point of view of those around her? Well, it keeps her out of our hair!

Travel tip

When travelling with a camera, or a camera-wielding TC, be prepared to stop and shoot at a moment’s notice.

The book I’m in

How to Do Everything: Digital Camera, by Dave Johnson. This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn about photography and digital cameras.

This worm had a narrow escape recently. I was spending some time in a DK book on photography that the TC took a violent dislike to. Ask her about it, then duck!

The photos

Me with Peg and a piece of bark that’s recently fallen from a Sydney Red Gum tree:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/125 sec
ISO speed: ISO-80
Exposure bias: -1 step
Focal length: 4 mm
Max aperture: 2.875
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

The TC has discovered that the camera and Windows both store a number of interesting facts about how the picture was taken. To keep her happy, I’ve copied the details below each photograph in this post. She’s been experimenting with the options available in the camera’s various modes. Even thought it’s a point-and-shoot, it offers an impressive flexibility for those who care to click and flick various buttons, wheels and knobs.

A jumble of bark at the base of a Scribbly Gum:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/50 sec
ISO speed: ISO-400
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 11 mm
Max aperture: 4
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

That looks like a secret code on some ancient rolled parchments, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s the work of grubs living in the bark of the tree.

The trunk of a Scribbly Gum:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/40 sec
ISO speed: ISO-100
Exposure bias: -1 step
Focal length: 18 mm
Max aperture: 4.34375
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

Two dragonflies mating while one chomps a cicada:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/250 sec
ISO speed: ISO-100
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 12 mm
Max aperture: 4
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

Talk about hostile mergers and acquisitions! Did you know that dragonflies are carnivorous? This worm did not, and neither did the TC.

Before we go any further, I have to admit I’m not sure that the happy couple are dragonflies. Their wings are parallel to their bodies, not at right angles. They don’t look like damselflies either, though. These critters were large: about 4 cm long. Do you know what they are?

One of the pair has a cicada firmly grasped in its legs. The trio was very mobile, and flew up and around the TC twice while she photographed it.

Another shot, where you can see the cicada more easily:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/160 sec
ISO speed: ISO-160
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 29 mm
Max aperture: 4.34375
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

A kookaburra, shot at maximum telephoto range (150 mm, 35x zoom, equiv. 840mm):

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/5.8
Exposure time: 1/80 sec
ISO speed: ISO-400
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 150 mm
Max aperture: 5.0625
Metering mode: Spot
Flash: No flash, compulsory

The TC is inordinately proud of that shot. It was tricky to keep the bird in focus at such a long distance. She played around with the depth of field (there’s another of her newly acquired terms) and exposure, took a number of shots, then chose the one she liked best.

We’ve already covered trees and birds, two of the TC’s favourite subjects. Here’s the third:



F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/3.5 Exposure time: 1/60 sec ISO speed: ISO-250 Exposure bias: -1 step Focal length: 8 mm Max aperture: 3.625 Metering mode: Spot Flash: Flash, auto, redeye

That’s all for today dudes.

The black cockatoos are in town

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

For someone who professes to be the friend and companion of a travelling worm, it seems to this worm that the TC has an unhealthy fascination with birds. She’s been taking pictures of the black cockatoos that have just arrived in our neck of the woods.

Needless to say, I stayed well out of sight. Black cockatoos are partial to the odd grub or two, and I don’t rate their level of discernment very highly. I think they’d pounce first and ask questions second.

“Oops, sorry, did I just swallow Mark Wordsworm, the famous Travelling Worm?”

These are the Sydney yellow-tailed black cockatoos. They seem to drop in at around this time every year, probably because a certain type of gum tree is in flower.

The book I’m in

Lake News, by Barbara Delinsky.

The photos

Me not inviting attention from a big cocky bird:

The black cockatoos are in town

The black cockatoos are in town

Black cockatoos are difficult photographic subjects, because they’re… well, black. Here’s what the TC managed to get.

Looking savvy:

The black cockatoos are in town

The black cockatoos are in town

Looking cute and fluffy:

The black cockatoos are in town

The black cockatoos are in town

Showing off the yellow tail:

The black cockatoos are in town

The black cockatoos are in town

Prowling along a branch in silhouette, pretending to be a black panther and then spoiling it by squealing like an eagle:

The TC in hot pursuit, snapped by the TC-once-removed:

The black cockatoos are in town

The black cockatoos are in town

That’s all for today dudes.