New South Wales

Still life…

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This is a still life painting by Margaret Olley, a much-loved Australian artist, who died in 2011 at the age of 88.

I love her style of realistic painting, her colours glow. But she famously hated house work. This is very evident in the reconstruction of her home that has been painstakingly recreated, piece by piece, in a specially built extension at the Tweed Regional Art Gallery. (see another post I did about this remarkable woman)

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It was carefully catalogued, thousands of articles, the exact position noted, then all brought from Sydney to be displayed here.

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You walk round the outside of the house peering in through the windows and doors at a conglomeration of articles that made up the creative person that was Margaret Olley.

As the gallery is only a short drive away I’m lucky to be able to visit regularly and this was where we came after the delicious lunch at Teavine House.

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To me it looks like a life times collection of eclectic junk, but Margaret insisted she knew where everything was and would not let anything be moved. Everyday the gallery staff put fresh flowers in the vases, as they were when she painted them. Classical music plays softly in the background.

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I visit this gallery every few months to see the ever-changing exhibits and always enjoy looking at this still life recreation of an amazing artist. So much to look at I notice something different at every visit.

It had been an enjoyable days outing and as the day faded we had one more cup of coffee, being the only ones in the café, it was almost closing time, it was quiet and peaceful and as the sun went down a stillness surrounded me. Life is good…

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Ailsa (where’s my backpack) ask us to create our own post and title it Travel theme: Stillness

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Categories: Australia, Margaret Olley Art Centre, photos, stillness, travel theme, Tweed Valley Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , | 48 Comments

The Benefits of Local Knowledge…

I enjoy house sitting, Airbnb accommodation and Couch surfing for many reasons, one of the main reasons is the information a local person can give you. 

A prime example of this was when I was deciding which way to come home after our recent farm sit.

“Have you heard of Putty Road?” Asked Kim.

The answer was “No”. So I Googled it.

The 174-kilometre (108 mi) Putty Road is very historic, closely following the Bulga Road (named after the Bulga Creek), first explored by John Howe, Chief Constable of Windsor, being the first road to link Sydney to the Hunter Valley. It was opened in 1823 and was initially a popular cattle-rustling route.[2]

Today, the road is fully sealed and from north to south, after leaving Singleton, passes through the settlements of Bulga, Colo, Milbrodale, and Putty. The Putty Road is bounded to the west and east by protectednational parks – the Wollemi National Park to the west, and the Yengo National Park to the east – both part of the UNESCOWorld Heritage–listed Greater Blue Mountains Area. The road is narrow and winding in places and very scenic. Wikipedia information 

Now that sounds like my kind of journey.

The start of the Putty Road section was Windsor and it was market day. Windsor is the third-oldest place of British settlement on the Australian continent. Settlement at the location was first established about 1791.

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It was a grey and drizzly sort of day and not many people around.

But this enterprising barber had customers waiting.

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We had an interesting chat with this bloke as he sat making clay models using clay from his own property. Notice the 2 mailboxes next to him, the old and the new.

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It is starting to rain again so time for a coffee before tackling Putty Road.

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Putty Road rolls along with the bush of 2 National Parks on each side. Narrow and winding it follows the contours of the Blue Mountains. This is a motorbike enthusiasts dream road as it twists and turns sometimes almost turning full circle back on its self. At regular intervals hoardings warn motorcyclist of the danger of speed and inattention. I feel like a rally driver, but lament the fact that there is nowhere to pull over for photos. The scenery is stunning, occasional glimpses of a stream following the road then disappearing into the thick Aussie bush.

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As we get to the other end of the road the bush gives way to fertile farm land. It was known as the “bread basket”, and in the early days of settlement it ensured the survival of the starving colony.

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A steady rain is now falling, not really photography weather. The storm clouds are gathering.

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As we neared the end of the Putty Road this poignant memorial tells of the dangers for truck drivers of this very tortuous road.

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A final stop is made in the small township of Kurri Kurri

This was a major coal mining area, but now only one mine is still operating. The town’s economy today is largely based on the surrounding wineries now that the aluminium smelter closed in 2012.

The monument below was erected about the neighbouring town of Cessnock. I’m not sure why they put it in Kurri Kurri.

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This pub is testament to the hey days of the mining, I can imagine all the miners making the pub their first port of call after knocking off work. Back then it was 6pm closing (known as “6 o’clock swill) and the blokes would swill down as much beer as they could before the call of “last drinks” rang out. Then stagger home with perhaps another dozen under their arm.

Today is Sunday and the town is deserted.

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What really caught my eye and made me stop here was this giant kookaburra…

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Nearing the end of our drive and the rain is now torrential and we learn later that the Putty Road had been closed  just after we got through, due to slips and dangerous conditions.

I found this old 4 minute video on You Tube. A small part of history in the making…

Categories: Australia, Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, photos, Putty Road, travel, Windsor | Tags: , , , , | 39 Comments

We’re Home…

Never one to miss an opportunity, and after all life is the journey, not the destination. So on the way home from the farm sit, I planned a mini 3 day road trip.

We travelled along the notorious Putty Road (more on this in a later post) planning to visit the Hunter Valley Gardens.

It started to rain…

So abandoned that idea and after lunch carried on to Newcastle where I had booked a 2 night stay in an Airbnb.

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It was a delightfully renovated home, immaculately clean and we also had the company of 2 adorable whippets.

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Newcastle is a city I have always just bypassed so this time decided to have a brief 2 day explore.

It rained…

But the museum was open, then, when the rain stopped for a short time, we took a drive around the wharf area and passed the beaches.

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The ocean was whipped into a frenzy around Nobby’s Head lighthouse which has been a safety beacon for ships at sea since 1821.

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Next morning it was still raining, but the Art Gallery was now open. It closed on Mondays. So after a pleasant couple of hours looking around, we pressed on North towards home.

The rain was getting heavier…

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Then it became torrential…

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Time to stop for lunch and wait for it to ease up. So we pulled into Bulahdelah. Fortunately we could park right outside the Tavern and dash inside. The tavern is on the banks of the Myall River. Look at it…

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It is in flood and creeping closer to the township. Some out lying properties were already cut off.

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The next Airbnb was at South West Rocks. (We have been here before, check it out here)Another delightful home with a friendly hostess. Jennifer is a traveller so we had many stories to swap. After a brief look around the beach and ordering a pizza for dinner we went back to Jennifer’s place and had a movie evening, watching “The Castle” a classic Aussie movie, along with Jennifer and another couple who were staying the week with Jennifer.

Next morning the skies had cleared and it was only 350 kilometres to home. We are now travelling along the Pacific Highway, Australia’s Number 1 motorway. Although some parts still had road works happening, as the Pacific Highway is in the process of a major up-grade, a large part is now open and the going was good.

And the sun was shining…

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The clouds were lifting and the sky was dramatic.

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We are back in sunny Queensland…

So we arrived home yesterday and I am doing this post as I wait for the loads of washing to go through.

At this point I have not made, or even thought of, where too next…

Time to relax…

Categories: Airbnb, Australia, floods, Newcastle, photos, South West Rocks, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 49 Comments

Bench Series : December along the Waterfall Way…

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Look what I found in the small village of Ebor, along the Waterfall Way,  an hours drive outside Armidale. 

 I am going to take you back in time 4 weeks when we were in Armidale. We only had 2 days to explore this very interesting town.

Day 1 we took a Heritage bus tour. (Check it out here)

Next day we drove along the Waterfall Way. One of Australia’s lesser known, iconic and beautiful drives. It passes through National Parks, the stunning gorges rise on either side of you and then there are the waterfalls. So many of them. But being summer not many will be flowing. So we went to Ebor Falls as it never dries up.

These are some of the things we saw.

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Paddocks of white daisies. When we passed them near Dubbo I thought they were weeds, but Ruth of “Ruth’s arc” informed me in the comments that they are actually Pyrethrum Daisies. She sent me this information…

“Botanical Resources Australia Pty Ltd (BRA) is the Australian grower of over 60 % of the world’s pyrethrum, the botanical insecticide, and runs the most high-tech pyrethrum industry in the world.”

They are very photogenic…

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I think these may be growing wild though…

I will link this to “flowersoverflowers” I’ve been missing in action on this site for a while.

This is the Guy Fawkes river cascading over the gorge. Creating the Ebor Waterfall, described as one of Australia’s most attractive falls.

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A walking track winds around the top of the falls and we find another bench to sit and admire the lookout.

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On the way out we pull up at an old pioneer cemetery.

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How difficult life must’ve been for these hardy pioneers when they settled in this area in the 1800’s.

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After a welcome cup of coffee at the “Fusspot’s Café” it was time to head back to our mini house sit in Armidale.

But one last side trip on the way to see another waterfall.

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Wollomombi Falls was almost totally dried up. Can you see the small pool and the trickle of water falling into it? But look at that massive gorge and imagine the force and power behind the falls in full flow during the winter wet season that has created that. It would be an awesome sight.

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Now I have caught up with my travels to this house sit and we only have another 2 weeks here.

Weather up date. After the sweltering heat of 39c+ on Sunday, yesterday the temperatures dropped to mid 20’s and it started to RAIN, and today it is still steadily falling, mana from heaven. I can see the grass and weeds growing as I look at them!!!

Well Jude week 51 of your very popular bench series and only one more week to go…

Categories: Armidale, Australia, bench series, Ebor Falls, flowersoverflowers, National Parks, Pyrethurem, travel, Waterfall Way, waterfalls | Tags: , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Discovering Armidale…

 

I did not know what to expect of Armidale. A country town set almost 1000 metres above sea level. It is surrounded by gorges, waterfalls and Heritage listed National parks.

But I found out that it is not just a country town, it is a city and there is much more to discover when I went on the “Heritage bus tour”

What a treasure this tour was. Two and a half hours guided by Norm, our knowledgeable local volunteer, and all they asked was to give a donation. It is certainly the very best guided tour I have ever been on.

Norm loved his city and was proud to tell us that with only a population of approx 24,700 it was a bustling and thriving city with a university and 2 cathedrals. Yet it retained much of its heritage past. As he slowly drove  around he told stories of the characters past and present.

First stop was to visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

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Notice this cute bench Jude?

Inside was examples of Aboriginal art work and crafts. Next door was the New England Regional Art Gallery (NERAM) but being Monday it was closed, but Norm gave us all the background history and we made a note to visit the next day.

Armidale has 2 cathedrals and after the bus tour finished we went back for a closer look and, of course, to take photos.

St Peters is the Anglican Cathedral and the brick work is stunning.

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This Cathedral is only open in the morning so we missed seeing the interior. But the Catholic Cathedral, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Cathedral is open all day so we looked inside.

To continue with the bus tour the next stop was at the Railway Museum and Station. While we learnt the history of how the railway opened up the outback we were served a welcome cup of tea and biscuits (Remember this is all for free or a donation)

The final part of the tour took us around the extensive University grounds.  This property comprised the old homestead, ‘Booloominbah’, with several other buildings and 74 hectares of land. Since the original gift, other generous benefactors have presented properties to the university, whose Armidale site now comprises some 260 hectares.

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We drive past extensive building projects in the University grounds. A sign of a thriving community.

The final stop is at “Booloominbah” situated in the heart of the University grounds.

The building now houses the offices of the University’s senior management, including the Vice-Chancellor’s office.

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Booloominbah reflects the Gothic revivalist influences of the ‘Queen Anne‘ style that emerged in England and the United States in the last half of the 19th century. Recent refurbishment has restored much of the original decoration. The building has National Trust classification, as well as being listed on the Register of the National Estate. It has been described as being “perhaps Hunt’s greatest achievement in the field of domestic architecture.”[3] It also has a New South Wales heritage listing.  (Wikipedia)

This impressive home was built in 1888 for Frederick White and his family, who decided to establish his family of seven children in Armidale because the cooler, fresher, drier air of the Tablelands was good for their health.

Norm took us around the downstairs area telling us tales of what life was like in the early days of colonialism.

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Follow us in and wonder at the amount of house work, with no modern appliances, that it would take. Dusting, polishing, cleaning, fires to be lit in winter, windows to clean, the list is endless. But, no doubt, if you have the money to build a house this size you also have the money to maintain an army of servants…

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An interesting piece of information, passed on by Norm, these chairs in the dining room, were made by “De Groot”, The notorious character who rushed in to cut the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (A very interesting part of Australia’s history)

It was 1pm when Norm delivered us back to the Information Centre. After 3 hours I now appreciate this lovely city. Time for lunch then back wandering through the streets to admire and take photos of the beautiful heritage buildings.

Come for a walk around with me…

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Just an example of how friendly the locals are. This worker noticed Jack taking photos and started a conversation. He said he was on the council and asked if we would like to see inside the Town Hall. He had the keys as it was shut today being prepared for an evening function. Of course we said “yes please”.

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This is just a small sample of the photos I took. This city has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and I could easily spend more time here. But we did get another day to explore, so I will show you where we went when next I have time to do a post. (Farm life is very time demanding… )

I’m back with Restless Jo’s walking group again this week.

To be continued…

 

Categories: Armidale, Australia, Heritage bus tour, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 35 Comments

How Airbnb turned into a house sit…

For a change I chose the inland route to Sydney on our way from the Gold Coast to the farm, house sit. Mainly because I had not been this way before.

Armidale was to be our first stop over, almost a 600 kilometre journey from the Gold Coast.

Have you heard of Airbnb? (If not check it out here.) I have used it a lot and love it. Well when I contacted Clare for a 2 night Airbnb stay in Armidale, she emailed back to say she would be away on the days we wanted accommodation. BUT she noticed we did house sitting, would we like to do a deal, stay 3 nights, pay for one and feed her chooks and water pot plants? Of course I said yes…

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It was in an ideal location. At the end of a quiet street, almost in the country, near the University and only a 5 minute drive to the CBD. If you look carefully you can see the few pot plants. It was rustic and basic but had comfy beds and every thing we needed.

I looked in the long grass under that big old apple tree.

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And found a worm farm tucked away.

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After feeding the 5 chooks and checking for eggs. It was time to explore Armidale…

To be continued…

Categories: Airbnb, Armidale, Australia, chickens, house sitting, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 34 Comments

Bench Series : December…

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Outside the Armidale art gallery we found this fun bench/installation/sculpture. What would you call it?

Of course Jack had to try it out…

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For the final month of Jude’s challenge we can choose any bench we like.

I will be telling you more about Armidale in future posts. (as time permits…)

Categories: Armidale, Australia, bench series, New South Wales, photos, travel, video | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

House sitting again and the joys of farming

We are now house sitting again.

We arrived here 5 days ago and it has been an intense learning curve. Water systems involving pumps, dams, sprinkling systems to be shown. Power systems with cords and connections going in every direction. Discussions of what to do in the event of storms, fire and floods. (Keeping fingers firmly crossed)

Four cows needing attention, 18 sheep of various ages and that included a ewe that had twins only a few days before we arrived. Two dogs and an ancient but lovable cat.

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A large vegetable garden to be cared for (and eaten!!!) and acres of native flowers to enjoy.

I am in seventh heaven I didn’t realise how much I missed the farm life. During the 5 days I followed around taking copious notes.

This morning at 4am it was D day. We went with Kim and Deidre to the airport and waved farewell to them as they flew off to America. Then brought their car back home. Arriving back at 6-30am we were ready for breakfast.

Now we are on our own (well not counting all the livestock!!!)…

First to check the ewe and lambs, aren’t they adorable…

Then to count the other sheep, one’s missing. I walk round the paddock and way over on the other side, near the dam, I find her. But she was not alone. Standing beside her was a fine, healthy baby and she was very protective of him.

With Jack’s help I separate her from the others and put her in the pen with the other mother.

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Here he is only a few hours old. What a lovely start to our 4 week house sit.

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I check them a couple of hours later and he has had a feed and is looking very contented.

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Meanwhile Seldon the border collie watches over them.

Being here is certainly an inspiration for me, going back to my farming roots.

I also think it is a transition for me during the next 4 weeks to be back on the land.

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Now it is 3-30pm and time to do the afternoon rounds of animals, gardens and dog and cat feeding.

 

Categories: Australia, farming, house sitting, inspiration, New South Wales, photos, transition, travel theme | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

On the road again…

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We are heading over the Great Dividing Range travelling to Sydney via the inland road and it is springtime.

We are travelling in our Toyota Corolla car this time but we see lots of caravans and campers on the road and it reminds us of previous trips in Matilda.

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The scenery is quite spectacular.

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Fields are covered in white daisies and they look like snow.

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 At 1330metres it is the top of the ranges, so we stop in a small township called Guyra,  for a wander around and stretch our legs. It is Sunday and the shops are shut and the streets deserted, but look what we see…

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I have to go over for a closer look.

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A bench with writing on it. Just what Jude is asking for in this months “bench series”

We are now in Armidale doing a 3 day, mini house sit. So much to see in this fascinating heritage city but that must wait for another day…

 

Categories: Australia, bench series, Great Dividing Range, house sitting, New South Wales, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 30 Comments

Singing Plants at Crystal Castle…

I visited the Crystal Castle 17 days ago and I am still trying to interpret what I saw and what my feelings are.

I chose to visit on a Wednesday as the programme for the day included listening to the “music of the plants”. Described as a profoundly moving and memorable experience. One of my passions is gardening. I love the beauty of plants and of course I believe they are responsive and have connections and vibrations that we cannot actually see. So I was looking forward to hearing them sing…

The plant concert was due to start at 1-30 next to the Blessing Buddha.

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This Buddha is very special to the formation of the Buddha Walk experience. It was in the year 2000 that Naren and wife Sono decided to create the Buddha Walk and in 2004 the search began for all the statues.

Finding Buddha was quite elusive until they heard about a master carver in Java, it was here that this huge, almost 4 metres tall, Buddha was hand carved from volcanic rock from a mountain in Java, then shipped to Australia.

It took another 18 months to create the gardens and transform an old dam site into a fitting setting for Buddha were he sits, giving forth a feeling of peace and tranquillity.

So it was here that I sat, in an open sided marquee, to listen to the story and history behind the phenomena of the singing plants.

It was explained that the idea and research about the music plants made, had first been researched at “Damanhur”. A connection was made with the people at Damanhur and a small box was acquired from them. Now this is were I, sort of, lost all the technology explanations. But a wire with a rusty sort of nail was pushed into the soil around the plants roots, another wire with a bulldog clip was attached to the leaves of the plant and a third wire went into the small box which was then connected to a synthesiser. Ok are you following this… I am now kicking myself as unfortunately I did not take photos. This link will explain it better than I can. http://in5d.com/amazing-singing-plants-phenomenon/

There was an expectant hush as we all sat waiting. Nothing happened.

We were told that the plants could not just sing on cue, sometimes they did not feel in the mood. So the clip was taken from that plant and moved to another. We were asked to meditate and chant the word “Ohm” Suddenly small noises, squeaks, uncoördinated notes emitted from the box.

I made a short video. Against the back ground of the “Ohm” chant you will be able to hear the synthesised sounds.

So what do you think? Is it the plants? Or is it a rather elaborate hoax…

Here is another version of “Damanhur” from a person who experienced living there and now warns anyone planning to go to be careful. https://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/

After an hour we went back to the main building to look at the amazing displays of crystals in the shop.

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The Crystal Castle is a truly unique place and on every level it exudes spirituality. The Stupor, the crystals placed everywhere, the spiral design of the gardens, the lush tropical plants used, the magnificent statues, the distant vista of the Border Ranges and rainforest covered slopes, the organic veggie garden. Then the inspiring story of one man and his dream and how he slowly, over 3 decades, turned that dream into reality.

I can appreciate the beauty, hard work and dedication.

But I am a practical, down to earth sort of person. I do not dwell on religion, spirituality, the meaning of life. My focus is on the “now”, the daily necessities of life, the people around me, my garden. So the connection Crystal Castle has with Damanhur and the singing plants left a vague uncomfortable niggle at the back of my mind.

Would I go back again? Most definitely.

For more details of the daily programme, how to get there follow this link.

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In the “weekly photo challenge” Krista asks us to show her our idea of a “Happy Place”.

If you think of “happy” as being serene and contented this Crystal Castle ticks the box for me…

Categories: Australia, Crystal Castle, happy, New South Wales, photos, Weekly photo challenge | Tags: , , , , | 34 Comments

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