OPINION: Deregulation will increase use of drones

THE Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced drones under 2kilograms are to become deregulated for commercial use in the second half of 2015.
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This will allow business to utilise the benefits of this technology without being certified.

But public liability insurance is not, and may not, become available to uncertified operators. It will be interesting to see what the insurance agencies deliver in the future to those uncertified because it does leave the community exposed to the risks associated with small drones.

We may find the insurance industry is the driver of the market rather than the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s regulation changes.

Through awareness of the aviation environment, automation systems and a focus on safety, sub-2kg aircraft can be operated safely, delivering efficiencies to many business sectors.

Utilisation of drones is not only about profits and efficiency but removing people from hazardous environments, allowing them to return home safely to their family.

Consider what is the greater risk: someone climbing onto a potentially unsafe elevated structure, or someone using a drone to inspect the structure first without risking harm to themselves.

Deregulation of the lower weight category for drones should see a mass adoption of the technology for many applications.

There are critics, and it seems that inadvertent contact between manned and unmanned aircraft will inevitably occur at some time, the repercussions of which are yet to be seen. This contact is unlikely to be from a commercial operator but from someone who is unaware of the regulations in the first place. Drones are a tool for an expert in their field. The mass take-up of drones is good for Australian business, promoting development, and the deregulation allows entry into unmanned systems without the restrictive costs currently involved. Small drones have their limitations and, as with manned aircraft, some manufacturers will pitch to the under 2kg market while others will remain in the over 2kg market.

There are also limitations on where uncertified operators can fly and, without a Civil Aviation Safety Authority-approved Operator’s Certificate, this may not change.

A common under-2kg multirotor system costs between $1000 and $2000 and is capable of carrying a small camera similar to a GoPro. Often people dip their toe into the market at this level, but discover their limitations and look to upgrade.

Professional applications are unlikely to accept a decrease in performance, quality, endurance or operating area just to remain under 2kg. For others this level of sophistication will be enough and add benefit to their activities.

CASA had previously indicated a weight for regulation as high as 20kg, but don’t hold your breath for this to occur just yet. With any rapidly developing technologies, legislation is slow to catch up and Australia’s legislation is stuck in 2002, when current technologies were beyond the reach of the masses. And Australian legislation is still considered advanced.

Aviassist has designed a workshop promoting safe under-2kg drone fixed wing and multirotor operations, transferring professional knowledge and creating a pathway for seamless transition to over 2kg as users expand their applications.

Ross Anderson is the founder of aviassist南京夜网419论坛, which provides aviation training and support

Street art takes centre stage

PAINT: Jara Gillick-Lewis with part of the mural Hiphopportunities created. Picture GLENN DANIELSHIPHOPPORTUNITIES For Youth is back at Groovin the Moo this year with some new murals helping add colour to the regional music festival.
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Artist Jara Gillick-Lewis said the organisation aimed to give young artists a platform for their ideas.

“We want to inspire and engage them and hopefully they can take (their skills) further,” Ms Gillick-Lewis said.

“There is potentially a chance for them to come back next year and get their own wall or piece.

“We want to see them develop their skills and take them further and further.”

Ms Gillick-Lewis said the group also promoted, including female artists.

“We are eroding that boundary that street art is just for males,” she said.

“The group also included local community children as well as kids from rural areas.

‘It;s very inclusive, brings people in and gives them a space where they are comfortable to express their ideas.”

Ms Gillick-Lewis said this year she was inspired by GTM’s retro poster artwork.

“I hope it’s very retro , stylised and captivating. I am going for a bit of an oasis vibe,” she said.

“I am normally an illustrator but I do graffiti as well.

“You can start out illegally but I don’t like working and looking over my shoulder.

“So I started by getting access to walls and tapping into festivals.

“If you want to paint, you find a way but you’ve got to practise.”

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Boss rates one superbly to claim Guineas for Moody

THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith
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CHAMPION jockey Glen Boss produced a brilliant front-running ride to score on Stratton in the Guineas.

Boss rated Stratton ($8.00) to perfection to take out the $40,000 Audi Centre Wagga MTC Guineas 3YO Benchmark 70 Handicap (1600m).

It gave a Wagga carnival victory to two of the biggest names in racing, Boss and Melbourne trainer Peter Moody.

Boss went straight to the front of Stratton and the chestnut kicked strongly in the straight to steal a race-winning lead.

Stratton held off Charming Lad ($11.00) by 1½lengths, with Wagga three-year-old High Opinion ($4.60) making strong ground to be a half length further back in third.

Boss said getting back on a dry track proved decisive for Stratton.

Boss rates one superbly to claim Guineas for Moody THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith

THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith

THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith

THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith

THUMBS UP: Glen Boss is all smiles after bringing Stratton home to claim the Guineas on Wagga Gold Cup Day. Picture: Les Smith

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Kiama Council proposes 2.4% rate rise

Kiama Coucil is proposing a 2.4 per cent rate rise to cover the cost of not receiving income from land development. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODOFor many years Kiama Municipal Council has benefited from income derived from its land development program through projects such as the Elambra Estate in Gerringong.
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But with the council’s work on Elambra now finished, the 2015-16 financial year will be the first year in decades the council will not receive income from land development.

Kiama’s draft 2015-16 budget is now on public exhibition and open for comment until May 29.

Kiama Council is proposing a residential rate rise of 2.4 per cent, which is in line with the rate peg limit set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), set in response to low inflation and subdued public sector wages growth.

Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler described the budget as ‘‘a balanced budget’’.

He said with the Elambra housing estate at Gerringong finished, the coming financial year would be the first in decades where the council would not receive income from land development.

‘‘There is still significant funds in reserve, some of which will be used next year for capital works, but it is now a declining resource,’’ Cr Petschler said.

He said a milestone would be reached next financial year with the last remaining timber bridge in the municipality at Cloonty Road, near Carrington Falls, replaced with a concrete bridge at a cost of $500,000.

‘‘The elimination of all our major wooden bridges is something we have been working on over many years,’’ Cr Petschler said.

He said while the council was content not to apply for a rate rise above the 2.4 per cent limit this year, council staff were now doing projections on future budgets.

‘‘What happens with future budgets will depend on what reserves we have and the tightening of revenue sources but it is too early to talk about that now,’’ he said.

The next financial year will be a good year for Jamberoo with $150,000 allocated for an upgrade of the town’s streetscape and $450,000 for an upgrade to the amenities block at Kevin Walsh Oval.

An allocation of $200,000 will see the Jamberoo Valley cycleway inch closer to the township.

The council has also allocated $650,000 to decommission Jerrara Dam, matching the allocation made in the current financial year.

Almost $800,000 has been allocated to fund eight projects in the Kiama Harbour/Blowhole Point precinct including $170,000 for energy efficient lighting and $80,000 to stabilise the bank near the Blowhole Point tennis courts.

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Uni seeks women for menopause study

Researchers Rhen Nealon and Hamish Evans with volunteer Maxine Kerr and Professor Peter Howe. Picture: Marina Neil. Photo by MARINA NEILCAN a substance commonly found in red wine, grapes and berries help ease some of the notorious side effects of menopause?
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It is a question researchers at the University of Newcastle’s Clinical Nutrition Research Centre are asking in a new study aimed at guiding women aged 45-plus towards healthy ageing.

“Some women transit the menopause with few or no symptoms while others suffer for many years,’’ says lead investigator, Dr Rachel Wong. ‘‘Even though the symptoms may eventually disappear there is nothing to celebrate.

‘‘That’s because post-menopausal women no longer have the protective benefits of oestrogen.

“This increases their risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke – conditions closely related to poor blood circulation,’’ she says.

‘‘A persistent decrease in blood flow within the brain can also contribute to premature cognitive decline.”

The substance, resveratrol, has multiple benefits for blood vessel health, enhancing circulatory function, says centre director Professor Peter Howe.

“We’re aiming to see if regular resveratrol supplementation can enhance blood flow responses to specific regions of the brain and thereby improve both mood and mental abilities, especially memory, in post-menopausal women,” he said.

The research team needs to recruit 80 post-menopausal women in the 45-85 age range for a randomised, placebo-controlled trial of a daily resveratrol dose of 150mg (two capsules) for 14 weeks.

Cerebral blood flow will be measured non-invasively with ultrasound and participants will be surveyed to monitor their mood, quality of life (including chronic pain) and other menopausal symptoms.

Participants must not be using insulin or warfarin therapy, smoke or be on nicotine therapy, or drink more than four drinks a day.

Volunteers should phone Hamish Evans on 49218616 or email [email protected]论坛 to register their willingness to take part.

Truckie’s boss to hand over the freight

PAY OUT: Pay back time for a courier driver whose boss has been ordered to pay nearly $10,000 in wages.THE former owners of a Central West transport company who underpaid a driver over a three-year period were ordered to pay the former employee $9551 at a sitting of the Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court in Orange yesterday.
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The courier driver, Colin O’Neill who drove as part of a courier service for Parkes based A1 Freight Pty Ltd in the Orange, Millthorpe, Blayney and Neville areas was represented in court by solicitor Clive Hill.

Mr Hill told the court the payslips presented as part of his evidence to have his client reimbursed, spoke for themselves.

He said initially his client had been told he would be employed full time, but was never told his status was changed to a casual employee two weeks after driving for the company.

Awarding on behalf of the plaintiff, magistrate Terry Lucas gave Marisa Tandy, the former director of the business 28 days to pay the overdue wages to Mr O’Neill.

Ms Tandy’s solicitor Mark Olsen told the court many businesses such as the one formerly conducted by Ms Tandy struggled to understand award structures.

“There is a fundamental ignorance as to how the award system works in this country,” Mr Olsen said.

He said Mr O’Neill had entered into a pay arrangement with the business owners in such a way that it would not affect his pension.

However Mr Hill said he had issues with the system in place for his client to take meal breaks as well as being underpaid.

“Having a cigarette while a truck is being loaded does not constitute a meal break,” he said.

He also said the company had adjusted pay slips to reflect Mr O’Neill would be paid $17 per hour instead of the required $21 or $22.

“That was trying to recast history,” Mr Hill said.

Mr O’Neill worked for the courier company as a driver from 2011 to 2013.

Mr Hill applied to the court for costs of $767.36 to be awarded, however the request was denied by Mr Lucas.

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Local guides honoured with Anzac invitation

Mackayla Bond and Cadence Burroughs and another visiting guide (left), leading AFDA Midshipment and Officer Cadets. Mackayla Bond and Cadence Burroughs waiting to proceed in the parade.
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Cheryl Rutherford, Anne Kearle and Gaylene McCurley in front of the War Memorial.

GIRL Guides from the ACT and SouthEastern (SE) Region extended an invitationto Girl Guides from NSW to participatein the Centenary of Anzac.

Their goal was for 100 Girl Guides carryingAustralian flags in the Youth ColourParty which was to lead the march at theAustralian War Memorial.

Four Lithgow Guides in CadenceBurroughs, Mackayla Bond, Haylie Atkinsand Gemalla de Bezuveille-Howarth andLeader Cheryl Rutherford attended thismemorable event.

They met up with nine Bathurst Guidesand two Leaders who represented theCentral Western Region.

The ACT and SE Region arrangedaccommodation at a local school for thelarge group of Guides and Leaders whotravelled to Canberra, which comprisedabout 150 people.

The contingent was provided with teaon Friday night and Saturday breakfast.

Many attended the dawn service, butLithgow and Bathurst Guides decided toconcentrate on the morning parade.

On Anzac morning, the Guides walkedfrom the school to the meeting place atReid Oval adjacent to the War Memorial.

Once there, the Guides were put intogroups for the service task they were toundertake.

Haylie and Gemalla were part of theYouth Colour Party together with Scoutsand Boys and Girls Brigades.

Mackayla and Cadence were given thetask of carrying a placard for AFDAMidshipmen and Officer Cadets (groupnumber 68).

The Leaders were given the task ofmarshalling near to the Youth ColourParty.

Toward the end of the parade, all marshalswere invited to join the end of theparade.

The girls had sense of pride comingtogether with people from all walks of lifeto honour the fallen.

They witnessed uniformed, non-uniformed,descendants and internationalpeople who took part in the parade.

After the parade, the Lithgow Guidesviewed ‘The Home Front’ exhibition atthe National Museum.

The following day the Guides saw thesights of Canberra (as they were lost),went inside the War Memorial which wasextremely busy and visited the DinosaurMuseum and Cockington Green.

Back in Lithgow, the four girls gave arecount of some facts which stood out forthem at the weekend, to their fellowGuides:

Candence: Mackayla and I marched in front of avery loud band. We marched by the war memorial.

I thought that we would march behind the band,but we marched in front of the band. We werenumber 68.

The next day, we were going to the WarMemorial and got lost. We also went to theNational museum, Dinosaur museum,Cockington Green and had tea at Shangidumpling.

Mackayla: In the parade, we were near the endof the line. We had to stand in front of band whichwas loud.

I was holding the sign for the band. There werethousands and thousands and thousands of people.

We had to walk in front of them. I knew thatthere was so many people watching me.

I felt that it was a great thing to be there. We alsowent to Cockington Green which is full of dollhouses, mini castles, parliament houses, little peopleand a streaker in a football game

Haylie: On Anzac day, we went to the WarMemorial. Gemalla and I held up the flags for verylong time before marching. It got cold and weweren’t allowed to wear our jumpers.

We were on TV. There was a big screen and Icould see my face. At the National Museum, I readabout Basil Watson who wanted to join the RoyalFlying Corps and was not able to join up becauseof a previous accident. He crashed his plane anddied.

There I saw planes, an engine, a stuffed cockatoo,a camel, cockatoo, horse, platypus and kangaroo.

The next day, we got lost for an hour as the GPSwould not work. When we were lost, we had to askfor directions.

Gemalla: We travelled to Canberra on Fridayand stayed at Campbell school. We hung out withthe Bathurst Guides.

In the morning, we packed up items into the carand had breakfast. We then walked to the WarMemorial.

At the ‘round a bout’, we got the flags out. Haylieand I had to hold the flags forever.

We marchedwith the Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, Scouts andother Guides.

This was called a Youth Colour Party. We werelined up with four people across and close together.

There was about 100 present. After marching,we watched the big screen, sang the AustralianAnthem and a hymn.

We went to a dumpling place for tea. Later, weplayed skits with the Bathurst Guides and used differenthats for the skits. It was fun.


Lithgow Girl Guides extend their thanks to JohnCobb for providing two new Australian flags forthe event.

Thanks go also to Karl Cook for refurbishing thespikes for the top of the flag poles.

According to the news reports, 120,000 turnedup for the service in Canberra.

Locally, the majority of the girls from theLithgow Girl Guide Unit either marched with GirlGuides or with the school they attend.

The Guides are in the process of working on theAnzac Centenary Challenge badge.

The criteria for the badge is that the JuniorGuides must complete three components, whereas,the Guide aged girls must complete five.

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Wallerawang power station’s final countdown

Wallerawang power stationWE knew it was coming but that hasn’t eased the regret at the passing of what has been a major contributor to our regional community for more than 50 years.
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EnergyAustralia announced yesterday that the first stages have begun in a program that will eventually see the demolition of the Wallerawang power station.

When the ageing power station was sold early last year EnergyAustralia initially announced it would be mothballed due to a dramatic downturn in demand for electricity.

It was subsequently announced that the plant would not be returning to service and would be demolished.

The demolition and rehabilitation of the site will be a huge task that EnergyAustralia says will take several years.

A spokesperson said yesterday salvage work beginning this month will be the first step in the entire plant’s decommissioning and rehabilitation.

She said the project will retrieve and sell usable items from the now closed power station.

EnergyAustralia has signed an agreement with Australian-owned EA Auctions* to ‘assist with asset disposal’.

As part of the project EnergyAustraliaemployees will oversee the safe removal of functional plant and equipment, primarily from within the power station’s turbine hall.

She said EA Auctions will then offer salvaged items for sale to its network of plant and equipment buyers ‘to recoup some of the anticipated costs of demolishing and rehabilitating the site’.

“EnergyAustralia will not begin demolishing the power station until salvage is complete and planning approvals are obtained,” she said.

“This process is likely to take some years.”

Further information on the project is available on


* EA AUCTIONS is an Australian owned businesses experienced in asset disposals and tender and brokerage programs.

The company works across agriculture, forestry, mining, engineering and construction industries, managing the sale of used equipment and heavy machinery via auction or tender processes.

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Mawson’s Huts in Hobart faithfully recreate Antarctic conditions

The bunk room is a faithful replica of Mawson’s hut in Antarctica. Photo: Supplied The bunk room is a faithful replica of Mawson’s hut in Antarctica. Photo: Supplied
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The bunk room is a faithful replica of Mawson’s hut in Antarctica. Photo: Supplied

The bunk room is a faithful replica of Mawson’s hut in Antarctica. Photo: Supplied

Mawson’s Hut in Commonwealth Bay. Photo: Kerry Lorimer

Mawson’s replica hut in Hobart.

The original hut under construction. Photo: Supplied

There’s a wind that seems to whistle in your ears. It howls outside; you can picture snow banking up against the thin wooden walls, imagine Sir Douglas Mawson strapping his feet into the spiked clogs that he fashioned for himself after frostbite began to destroy his limbs, and envision Mawson’s men preparing to tackle the bitter cold outside.

This is Antarctica, and a science base at lonely Cape Denison. The walls here are thin and wooden. The only heat comes from the burning blubber of seals and penguins. And still the wind howls.

Fortunately, however, this is not actually Antarctica – outside the wooden walls I’m staring at today is the relative safety of Hobart’s Constitution Dock. The howling of the wind is digital, emanating from speakers tucked away in the corridor outside. Everything else, however, is real, made to perfectly replicate the huts that the scientist and explorer Douglas Mawson and his men lived in for two years during their Australasian Antarctic Expedition that began in late 1911.

The Baltic pine walls are built from the same timber, sourced from the same Finnish sawmill. The bunk beds are set out in the same order as those you’d find on the southern continent, complete with “Hyde Park Corner”, where the expedition team’s English subjects once slept. Mawson’s small bedroom has also been painstakingly recreated, down to the picture on the wall and the doll, given to him by the ballerina Anna Pavlova, resting on his sleeping bag.

These replica huts, now a museum and one of Hobart’s most popular attractions, are the work of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, and profits go towards restoring and preserving the original huts far south in Cape Denison.

Why Hobart? We’re actually closer here to Mawson’s Antarctic base than we are to Perth. Many of the great explorers – the likes of Amundsen and Scott – once called through the Tasmanian capital, and it remains an important base for modern Antarctic exploration. It’s the perfect spot to place this ode to one of Australia’s great pioneers.

The huts don’t look much from the outside. Hastened by bad weather and limited by the materials available, Mawson and his 17 men took just three weeks to build the originals, which consist of a workshop – which in Hobart is the museum foyer – a verandah area, and a main living quarters in which 18 men ate, slept, studied, and, if the pedal-powered piano is anything to go by, sang. All of the details of the original huts have been recreated, from the small enclave photographer Frank Hurley used as a dark room, to the foods available in the kitchen (admittedly minus the explorers’ main source of protein, penguin meat), to the roulette wheel that was built to help pass the time. A small gap in the wood shows where the men could watch the Aurora Australis. Peer through another space and you can see their makeshift toilet.

The tour begins in what was once the verandah area, where stories of the men involved in the expedition are told through lighted displays. As you wind through the passageway you begin to understand the hardships faced by the expedition team in the world’s coldest, loneliest continent, as you read about the living conditions and the mini-expeditions both successful and not, before you round the corner and enter the small abode in which 18 men lived, and two men died.

There are initials painted on the wooden bunk beds, same as there are in Antarctica, indicating where everyone slept. There are a few luxuries laid out on the big dining table: whisky, port, chocolate. There’s a heater placed above in the rafters, a device that managed to keep the inside temperature to a balmy minus-four degrees.

You can almost feel that cold as you wander the small room, listening to the howling wind outside, feeling the extremes of Antarctic exploration. Fortunately, however, in this Antarctica there’s a pub next door.

The Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum, at Constitution Dock in Hobart, is open daily, and entry costs $12 for adults, $10 for concessions. See mawsons-huts-replica.org419论坛. Travel company Chimu Adventures, a supporter of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, is running two expeditions down to the real huts in Antarctica, departing January and December 2016. See chimuadventures南京夜网419论坛.

The writer travelled as a guest of Chimu Adventures.

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Ryoan-ji, Kyoto, Japan: The art behind the zen

The Sanmon Gate at Tofuku-ji temple in Kyoto. Photo: LightPoem The Sanmon Gate at Tofuku-ji temple in Kyoto. Photo: LightPoem
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A young monk rakes the famous Japanese rock garden of Ryoan-ji early in the morning.

A young monk rakes the famous Japanese rock garden of Ryoan-ji early in the morning.

A young monk rakes the famous Japanese rock garden of Ryoan-ji early in the morning.

A young monk rakes the famous Japanese rock garden of Ryoan-ji early in the morning.

The Sanmon Gate at Tofuku-ji temple in Kyoto. Photo: LightPoem

The Sanmon Gate at Tofuku-ji temple in Kyoto. Photo: LightPoem

Kyoto’s most famous Zen garden is Ryoan-ji. Its raked gravel and 15 carefully placed stones make it the world’s most recognisable garden image. I love Ryoan-ji, which, despite the hoards of visitors adding their own snaps to the image load of the garden, still manages to instil a mood of mystery and quiet reflection.

It was made by an unnamed monk in the 15th century and was the template for a dry stone Zen garden for four centuries – until Mirei Shigemori​ brought the Zen garden into the 20th century and introduced it to modernism.

On a recent trip to Kyoto I was keen to see how Shigemori made this marriage work. Shigemori’s original passion was not for the garden, but for other traditions in Japanese culture – painting and art history, calligraphy, tea ceremony and ikebana. The early decades of the 20th century were a tense time in Japanese culture as a modernising, westernising push clashed against a conservative desire to preserve Japanese traditions unchanged. Shigemori argued that Japanese culture was strong enough to survive engagement with the west and he tried to found a new arts school to pursue his modernising vision. Before he could get it going, though, the 1934 typhoon tore through western Japan, alerting him to the fragility of that other Japanese art – garden-making. He began surveying gardens all over the country, a project that culminated in the mighty 26-volume Illustrated Book on the History of the Japanese Garden. 

Shigemori was now the country’s expert on Japanese garden history and a year later, in 1939, he was given his first design brief – for the gardens around the hojo (abbot’s residence) in the Tofuku-ji temple.

Tofuku-ji is a big complex of temples so famous for its maples that autumn crowds pack the pathways for momi-ji (maple viewing). The gardens aren’t easy to find through the crowds, the buildings and sub-temples; the upside of that being that there are few other visitors. For Shigemori, creating modern gardens required following the approach of the old masters – combining knowledge and tradition with innovation.

Even knowing this, the grid garden at Tofuku-ji comes as a shock. Squares of clipped azaleas alternate with squares of raked gravel. The symmetry is not part of traditional Japanese garden design, yet here the grid references the patchwork of Japanese rice fields. The grid pattern is repeated in the next garden, but this time in moss and gravel, the grid gradually falling away into entropy.

Shigemori designed another set of gardens at Tofuku-ji, for the Ryogin-an sub-temple. The hojo here is the oldest existing one in Japan, its floor worn so silky you just have to sit and stroke it as you contemplate the garden. Dry stone Zen gardens, called kare-san-sui, are designed as an aid to meditation for monks in the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The patience, skill and concentration required to rake the specific pattern of the garden are part of Zen training and practice. An unwavering straight line is required in the Garden of Vanity, which is simply straight raked white gravel, edged in a straight line of river stones, backed by a bamboo fence and with a pavilion gazing onto the nothingness.

The emptiness of vanity is an easy message to read in this garden; the metaphor is a bit more obscure in one of the gardens in Zuiho-in, on the other side of the city. The feudal lord who dedicated this temple, Otomo, was convinced by Portuguese missionaries to convert to Catholicism. Not long afterwards, Christianity was outlawed in Japan. In one of the gardens around the temple an asymmetrical cross is abstractly marked in stones and points to a stone lantern, beneath which is buried a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The unseen statue is quite a powerful idea, but my favourite garden here is much more physical and energetic than this spiritual riddle. Stones in the form of a dragon leap from an ocean of waves of white gravel. The tines of the rakes used on the gravel form heaped ridges that add to the energy of the vertical rocks and the rising angle of the screening hedge at the back of the garden. It’s invigorating and serene at the same time.

Shigemori designed domestic gardens as well as temple gardens, but the only one it’s possible to visit is his own, now a “museum”.  You need to book as only a handful of visitors are allowed in to see the master’s gardens and tearoom at any one time. There’s no wandering allowed. Views of the garden are controlled and when the shoji screen slides back from the tea house facing into the garden, the view revealed is of perfectly placed rocks, moss, camellias and pines, with glimpses of the suburb through the trees: the traditions of the Japanese garden, set in modern life.   TRIP NOTES



japanesegardens.jp  GETTING THERE

Major airlines offer flights to Kansai Airport, the closest major airport to Kyoto from Sydney and Melbourne. See qantas南京夜网419论坛; jetstar南京夜网; and jal南京夜网. There are frequent fast train services to and from Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station. STAYING THERE

Westin​ Miyako Hotel is near a subway station and is a short walk to the Philosopher’s Walk and its temple gardens. Rooms start at 19,440 JPY.

See miyakohotels.ne.jpSEE+DO

You need to book a time to visit the Mirei Shigemori Garden Museum. Ask your concierge to book and to get instructions to hand to a taxi driver as it’s hard to find.

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Northern lights: Dying to see the sky ignite in Norway

Trees stand out starkly against a breathtaking early morning view of the aurora borealis. Photo: iStock Trees stand out starkly against a breathtaking early morning view of the aurora borealis. Photo: iStock
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Trees stand out starkly against a breathtaking early morning view of the aurora borealis. Photo: iStock

Trees stand out starkly against a breathtaking early morning view of the aurora borealis. Photo: iStock

Jim Melville didn’t leave Britain until he was 17 years old, and even then, stuck on a ship, he wasn’t doing so to visit a new country. Serving on the HMS London as part of the notorious Arctic Convoys in the Second World War, he was on one of dozens of British (and eventually American) warships that escorted merchant navy boats around northern Norway and through the Arctic Circle to either Archangel or Murmansk in Russia. There they would dock and unload tonnes of supplies to bolster Russian defences against advancing Nazi troops. Hitler knew that if he could capture these ports he would have a straight line to Moscow and Mother Russia. Churchill knew that it was vital that the Red Army held its line – Stalin reminded him frequently.

Melville and the crew of the London would escort the civilian ships all the way to port, but only critically sick crew members were allowed to set foot in Russia. If all was well, the boats would simply turn back to Britain resupply. Back and forth they would go, awaiting further orders. For almost three years this was Melville’s job, during the eternal darkness of the polar winter and the unyielding light of its summer.

I’m thinking about Melville and the London and all of those on the Arctic Convoys while in the warm lounge of the MS Finnmarken​, one of several luxurious ferries in the Hurtigruten fleet. I am approximately following the same route as those heroic warships, around the North Cape, Europe’s Northernmost extreme, all the way to the Russian border. When Melville and his shipmates negotiated these waters, they did so under the constant threat from German U-Boats, raids from the  Luftwaffe​ and the  prospect of coming across the Bismarck or the Tirpitz​, the most feared battleships in the ocean.

My fears are embarrassingly trivial by comparison: is merlot definitely the best pairing with this reindeer stew? What if I don’t like the cod-tongue fishcakes from the buffet? Should I wear the woolly or synthetic hat out on deck?

I say embarrassing because Jim Melville was my grandfather. He continues to be my hero and I’ve come on this cruise into the Arctic Circle to follow his watery footsteps 70 years later. That’s part of it anyway – like the virtually everyone else on board, I’ve also come with the hope of seeing the northern lights.

Because of my grandfather’s time on the Arctic Convoys, I knew the words aurora borealis from a very young age, despite them being tricky sounds to form, and an even harder concept to fully grasp. Even so, I have always known that if you go far enough into the dark north and luck is on your side, the universe will reveal something astonishing.

This frozen journey, or one like it, is increasingly popular – northern light hunting recently topped a TravelSupermarket​ survey on bucket lists. I suspect many people putting it on there don’t fully realise what seeing the aurora entails: while it’s easy enough to fly to Tromso, the unofficial capital of the Arctic, and into the range of the lights, there are absolutely no guarantees of seeing anything. While on the Finnmarken​, I overheard one woman wistfully mention that it was her fourth time in northern Norway and she was yet to catch a glimpse of anything.

If the sky does ignite, you generally have to be outside to see anything and temperatures can dip as low as -50C. That’s cold enough to empty a cup of hot coffee and have its contents freeze before shattering on the ground. So you can easily spend a fortune on coming here only to see and feel nothing other than the icy breath of the man with the scythe.

During my week in Norway the coldest it gets is around -25C, two degrees colder than an ordinary domestic freezer. Again and again it will feel as though part of me is dying; again and again I will insist this is one of my favourite-ever trips.

Before flying up to Tromso, I had imagined it to be some blizzard-blasted outpost stalked by polar bears. It is, after all, a mere 2000 kilometres from the North Pole. Instead I found a bustling, cosmopolitan place, home to more than 70,000 souls from around the world. The only polar bear I saw was stuffed and standing upright in a bar, a Santa hat hanging over his lifeless face as a final indignity.

Through the year Tromso hosts an eclectic mix of events, including a reindeer race down the main thoroughfare. The mayor is the reigning reining champion. There’s also a university up here, as well as several of the world’s northernmost things: the northernmost symphony orchestra, the northernmost botanic garden, the northernmost Burger King. If it’s in Tromso, then chances are it’s a record breaker.

Even on the nights when everything is forecast to go well with the aurora, it generally can’t be seen until around dinner. There’s plenty going on in town, even in the depths of winter, but heading on a tour into the wilderness significantly widens your options.

One morning I went whale watching in the half-light of the near-dawn (up here the sun disappears in November and doesn’t return until the end of January) and didn’t see a whale – I saw a dozen: gargantuan fin whales, a handful of humpbacks and a pod of orcas. For one thrilling second, it looked as though the killers might try their luck with the smallest humpback, before thinking better of it and disappearing like shadows.

Then there was the husky mushing​. Half a dozen companies do this around Tromso​, and northern Norway generally, but none of them are as unapologetically exhausting as Active Tromso. Led by endurance champion and renowned maniac Tore Albrigtsen, the company offers the chance to really feel as though co-operation with your dogs is essential for mutual survival. A few hours of pushing, shouting and holding on is an exhausting business, especially as I had the laziest dogs in Europe. They also had a knack of stopping to mark their territory at the top of every hill while I was stuck at the bottom, giving me no assistance when I needed them most. Towards the end I fell off and nearly broke my arm under the sled, but I say this with sincerity: it was perhaps the best day of all.

Yet it’s the aurora that everyone really wants to see. Leaving Tromso, I travelled with Hurtigruten around the North Cape with the unscientific theory that if I moved to different locations I might have a better chance of seeing the lights. I sailed two days east to the end of the line at Kirkenes, just shy of the Russian border. Murmansk, my grandfather’s old port, was just a few hours away by bus. After a night in Kirkenes, I got a different boat, the Trollfjord​, and slowly returned to Tromso. There and back I spent every night out on deck staring at the heavens.

I’m not religious. I don’t believe in magic. But when seeing the lights, it’s hard not to think of bigger things. I had enough time to consider it: I saw the aurora borealis four nights out of seven in northern Norway. If not blessed, then I was at least very fortunate. Scale, time and my understanding of everything became skewed by the show. It happened twice with Hurtigruten, someone from the bridge proudly announcing we should head out onto deck to see the incredible. During the war captains would do the same for their young crews – how the celestial display must have blown Jim Melville’s 17-year-old mind!

I saw the lights at sea and on land, sometimes milky, sometimes green; occasionally static, occasionally dancing; at once terrifying and familiar. My camera drank it all in while I thought of the universe and my own smallness.

Communities around the world have different beliefs related to the lights. The Vikings called it the bifrost​, a magical link between our mortal coil and the sacred halls of Valhalla. Some Inuit believe them to be dangerous, capable of all manner of nefarious deeds, including, but not limited to, kidnapping and beheading. I prefer the version of the local Sami​ people, whose territory stretches across Norway, Sweden and Finland and is often referred to as Lapland. They hold that the aurora borealis isn’t solar wind blasting our atmosphere with “excited” photons, but rather the eyes of their ancestors, twinkling from the great beyond. Night after night I stood out in the biting cold, happy with that explanation, little tears freezing on my cheeks. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

nordnorge南京夜网CRUISING THERE

Hurtigruten offers cruises throughout the year all the way from the extreme south of Norway along the coast to the Russian border.   A six-night winter “Classic Voyage” is priced from $840  a person;  see hurtigruten南京夜网. SEE + DO

Active Tromso offers an intense experience driving huskies – jumping off the back of the sled when needed and mushing the dogs until you’re exhausted, priced from $195 a person for a day; see activetromso.no.

Even in the gloom of winter, spotting whales off the coast of Norway is a thrilling business. Expect humpbacks, orcas and gigantic fin whales in winter and sperm whales in summer. Tours are priced from $160  a person; see arcticwhaletours南京夜网.

The writer was a guest of Hurtigruten and Northern Norway.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Volcano-boarding in Nicaragua

“We’re not going that way,” says Roger as I peer down into Cerro Negro’s horseshoe-shaped crater. “That’s the way the lava goes.”
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In 1971, one of the notorious Nicaraguan volcano’s many eruptions caused the north-eastern section of the rim to collapse, and since then, the lava has followed the path of least resistance.

Prevailing winds, however, come from the opposite direction, meaning sand and ash is blown over the rim and towards the city of León. This means the León-facing slope is made up of relatively fine ash.

It’s not totally smooth, but it is good enough for the adrenalin enthusiasts who have turned the slope into the venue for a new extreme sport. Cerro Negro is the home of volcano boarding, and while there are a few different ways to do it, all involve throwing yourself down a 650m slope at an angle of up to 41 degrees. Some do it surfer-style, standing up on crudely converted surf boards or specially-fashioned planks of wood. But Roger and I are going to tackle it on what are basically sledges.

Volcano boarding began in 2003 when an Australian hostel owner in León decided that surfing could potentially work inland too, and the sport has grown steadily from there. After initially fighting against it, the Nicaraguan government and tourism authorities have begun to embrace it. It brings people to the area, after all, and you may as well charge them for access to the volcano.

I’m handed a marvellously unflattering jumpsuit, which will supposedly protect my clothes from getting filthy, and eye-protecting goggles. “Do not, whatever you do, take them off,” Roger advises. There are also elbow pads and the sort of industrial-sized gloves more usually associated with glass-blowers.

It is serious kit, and it’s clear that the descent is going to be no leisurely joyride. In fact, it’s almost as if getting it wrong will result in excruciating pain.

There’s only a limited amount of technique involved. There’s a rope attached to the end of the board, and that needs to be held taut to prevent meandering changes of direction. To steer or slow down, it’s simply a case of digging heels into the slope.

Unfortunately, all advice on braking seems to leave my brain shortly after I set off on the death plunge towards the bottom. It seems to get very fast and very steep, very soon.

What starts as novelty quickly becomes utterly terrifying. I’m under no illusion that I’ve got my perfunctory craft under any control – I’m just hanging on to it and praying that I’m not sent flying towards a grisly end.

It’s also the world’s most savage exfoliation treatment. The slope isn’t quite as smooth as it appears from the top, and my face is attacked with an unceasing blizzard of volcano debris. The temptation is to scream, but that just induces a very unwelcome meal of grit.

The line between experience and ordeal is crossed about half way down, and by the time I reach the bottom I’ve entered what can only be described as shellshock.

Roger runs over and asks if I’m OK. “That’s the fastest I’ve ever seen someone go down first time. You were going at about 70km/h. Why didn’t you brake?”

It is an excellent question, but one that can’t be answered without spitting out half a volcano first.

The writer was a guest of Vapues Tours (volcanoboard南京夜网)

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Ovation of the Seas comes to Australia

Dawn Princess is holding regular beer and wine festivals at sea.
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Ovation of the Seas boasts a 90-metre-high Northstar viewing capsule.

Carnival Spirit’s water slide is part of a plan to give all guests a quality holiday experience.

Dawn Princess is holding regular beer and wine festivals at sea.

Dawn Princess is holding regular beer and wine festivals at sea.

Dawn Princess is holding regular beer and wine festivals at sea.

Northern Lights are part of Peregrine’s new Arctic itineraries for 2016. Photo: Supplied

Ovation of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s recent announcement that it will be sending its newest ship, the super-high-tech 4180-passenger Ovation of the Seas, to homeport in Sydney next year is very big news in the cruise industry. But if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, let’s have a quick look at what it means.

For starters, it proves that the demand for cruising Down Under is still growing at an incredible rate. About a million Australians took a cruise last year, and every summer, more ships from a variety of global cruise lines arrive to sail around Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific and south-east Asia. The number of ships based in Australia year-round is also at a record high – by November, Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises will operate 10 ships (and hundreds of itineraries) between them.

Ovation of the Seas will join Royal Caribbean fleetmates Radiance, Voyager, Explorer and Legend of the Seas when it arrives in December 2016. It will be the biggest, newest ship to cruise in our waters – some of its local competitors are now 25 years old. It’s virtually identical to Quantum and Anthem (which was christened in Southampton a couple of weeks ago and has the same fab features – a skydiving simulator, FlowRider surf simulator, bumper cars, the 90-metre-high Northstar viewing capsule, and dozens of dining and entertainment venues, just to name a few.

Having Ovation based in Sydney, even for a short initial season, means that local cruisers can enjoy all these fun things without having to travel overseas. Gavin Smith, Royal Caribbean’s regional vice president for Asia Pacific, said, “Ovation of the Seas will completely redefine the idea of cruising in Australia, taking the industry to the next level by offering a host of incredible never-before-seen features and technologies. This demonstrates our belief in, and long-term commitment to, the Australian cruising market.”

Ovation’s Australia and New Zealand itineraries will be released at the end of May. It’s expected that there will be five-day cruises with fares starting at $199 per day, and you can register now at royalcaribbean南京夜网419论坛/ Ovation to make sure you are at the top of the list to receive the latest info.

There’s been huge interest all over the world in the huge new Quantum class of ships and having cruised on Quantum of the Seas late last year, I’d suggest you get in quick for Ovation – as Gavin Smith says, it’s a game-changer.

❑ About one million Australians took a cruise in 2014 in what has become a $1.8 billion dollar industry for Australia, according to the recent Economic Impact of the Cruise Shipping Industry in Australia study by AEC group.

❑  Anthem christened in Southampton, UK, April 20


NAME: Ron Ness from Seattle, US

POSITION: Hotel director, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Legend

MY JOB: I oversee the running of our Guest Department, which includes ensuring all guests enjoy a quality holiday experience, and manage and motivate up to 1100 crew.

MY TYPICAL DAY:  There are really no typical days, but each day brings new possibilities of fun. On sea days, we want everyone to get involved with the daily activities and it’s important for me to ensure everything is running smoothly. Port days start very early and once the guests are out, we take advantage as a team to give the ship a facelift throughout.

FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT: A few years ago, I was asked to reposition Carnival Spirit from Mexico and Hawaii to Alaska via our new home port of Seattle, which is my home town. My grandfather was a fisherman from Seattle to Alaska so it was my dream to follow his footsteps along that route.

MY FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS: Alaska. I’m also really enjoying Sydney and I love our calls to Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines.

INSIDER TIP: Always pack comfortable shoes for walking the open decks and to wear in ports of call.

TIP Jet lag can be debilitating. Try to include at least a night pre-cruise in your departure port; other advice includes avoiding alcohol and caffeine in flight, adjusting your watch to local time zones, taking melatonin and – my favourite – a homeopathic remedy called Jet Ease, available from travelgear南京夜网419论坛.


Beer and wine festivals afloat

Dawn Princess will cruise out of dry dock later this month, offering Australia’s first beer and wine festivals at sea. They will be held twice on every cruise of more than seven days, with live music accompanying tastings of regional beers and wines in marquees on the top deck. The newly renovated Wheelhouse Bar will have 56 whiskies on the menu, including top Tassie tipple Larks Single Malt, and a new Italian cafe called Amuleto will be added to the Horizon Court Buffet. Keeping up with the trend of changing onboard buffets to “market places”, the Horizon will now be known as the World Fresh Marketplace.

So cool

Adventure-cruise company Peregrine is offering four new Arctic itineraries in 2016 – including a five-day expedition to Barneo Ice Camp at 89 degrees north. One for the committed adventurer, this trip involves flying to a Russian research station, landing on a frozen runway, exploring the ice camp by air and land and meeting the resident scientists, pilots, mechanics and explorers. Other new expedition cruises include a 13-day voyage to Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land, 10  and 13-day Northern Lights viewing in Greenland, and a 15-day Scotland to Spitsbergen trip. peregrineadventures南京夜网/arctic-2016

Port Vila reopens  

The resilient citizens of Vanuatu are keen to get back down to business after the havoc wrought by Cyclone Pam. They gave several thousands of passengers onboard Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl a warm welcome when they went ashore in Port Vila earlier this month – both ships also delivered much needed aid packages. Carnival Spirit will arrive on May 12 and its passengers will no doubt dig deep to help the locals rebuild their island nation.  Cruise tourism is a vital component of the Vanuatu economy. If you’d like to support the Cyclone Pam relief fund, visit savethechildren.org419论坛.


Cruise 1st is offering an epic 23-night South America fly, tour, cruise and stay package, departing Sydney for Rio de Janiero on November 3. Highlights include two days in Rio, two days at the Iguazu Falls, a night in Buenos Aires and a 14-night cruise on HAL’s MS Zaandam from BA to Santiago. Fares start at $5499; phone 1300 596 345, see cruise1st南京夜网419论坛.


CRUISEABOUT Save 50 per cent on a 14-night Amsterdam to Budapest river-cruise package on MS AmaBella that includes return airfares from Australia. Departing October 31, fares start at $6829 and are valid until sold out. Phone 1300 450 133, see cruiseabout南京夜网419论坛.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN Explorer of the Seas’ pre-Christmas eight-night South Pacific cruise, departing Sydney December 16, visits the Isle of Pines, Lifou and Noumea. Book now for fares starting at $1090. Phone 1800 754 500, see royalcaribbean南京夜网419论坛.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.