Ponderings of a retired Tasmanian, photographing, animal loving, book reading, travelling, motorbike riding penguin, growing old disgracefully, who still loves old Penguin books and sharing our world with others.
No, I haven’t been travelling but I have been playing with photos from past trips and as this site is supposed to include some travel I thought I would share some trip photography from eight years ago. Without a lot of explanation let your imagination roam.
Santiago, Chile with a short day trip to Valparaiso to see the home of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda.
A bit of street photography in Santiago, Chile, 2012.
I am happy to say my reading slump has disappeared and I am enjoying my books again. I’m glad it didn’t last too long. I got fed up with all the screens from social media, news, t.v. and Netflix. Quiet nights with books again and mornings with more books and blog posts are the go for now.
I just finished this wonderful travel story from Elspeth Beard from London. Elspeth was the first (known of) British woman to ride her motorbike around the world in 1982. It is a remarkable tale and here are the details.
Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World by Elspeth Beard. Published by Michael O’Mara 2017. 320 pgs long.
In 1982 Elspeth had just finished studying Architecture in England and wanted to do the trip with her BMW motorbike she had dreamed of. Her parents who were quite upper class gave her no support and showed no interest in much of what she did, instead deciding she just wasn’t much of a conformist. Her mother was more concerned that the curtains in the living room were matching and her father was lovely but a bit distracted with other issues.
Because she was a young woman, none of the Bike magazines wanted to hear about it, not many wanted to sponsor or support her and as this trip had not been done by a female before most thought she was mad. But being such a strong, stubborn person off she went. (Thoughts went through my mind of how much support Ewan McGregor and Charley Borman had from BMW on their round the world trip much later)
She flew herself and her bike to New York and rode to Detroit where she stayed with an aunt for a short while. Then off to New Orleans and across the southern states to California.
From there she sent her bike to Sydney but then found out she could not get a working visa for herself. She tried several embassies in the U.S. with no luck. She wanted to spend time there and finish her architecture practicum for school at a Sydney firm while earning some money to finance her trip. She had a name of a well known architect there who could help her (she was assured).
Instead she decided to go to New Zealand where she met up with other relatives in Auckland. She knew her bike was on a ship to Sydney and she thought the embassy in New Zealand might be friendlier. As it turned out when she applied for her visa there, she dealt with a man who rode a Triumph motorbike and he loved the idea of the trip and stamped her passport with enthusiasm. Her boyfriend of the time met her in New Zealand and they toured the north and south islands before she went on to Sydney.
She did introduce herself to the architect she was referred to however he turned out to be a very nasty man and she didn’t last long but that’s another story. She did find a better practice in which to work. Once cashed up she covered Australia pretty well. Her descriptions of the flooded dirt tracks she encountered especially from Alice Springs to Adelaide were harrowing. Mud up to her knees and much help from the road train drivers saved her skin.
She then rode to Perth and then flew to Bali to catch up with her boyfriend, Mark again, while shipping her bike ahead to Singapore. The rest of the story is where it gets gritty.
Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and India had us holding our breath in many situations. Getting in and out of India was nightmarish with the bureaucracy and I wouldn’t have traded places with her at all. For example when she got to the Pakistani border she was told she had to go back to Delhi to get her paperwork stamp. Delhi is 500 kms away and off she went. Only to find it couldn’t be done and back to Pakistan border she went. Another form fell out of her passport by accident and the border guard at the Pakistani border thought that was the right form and let her in. Such luck she had.
Descriptions of the people, the locations and a couple of pretty hairy accidents not to mention the illnesses she contracted did make me think she was mad.
But survive she did, having met a Dutch motorbiker who she falls in love with and off they go to Pakistan and Iran and then Turkey. Both of them contracted Hepatitis, dealt with many men with rifles and lust and she still manages to get through it all while having lost kilos of weight and was yellow with Hepatitis.
There is a quite a bit of naval gazing about what to do about getting over Alex who dumped her before she left England. who had been the love of her life. Then lovely Mark who loves her dearly, but obsessively and is the one who catches up with her in New Zealand and Bali. She finally falls in love with him until she meets Richard. But once she gets back to London, three years later, she and Richard go by the wayside as he isn’t able to deal with everything that has happened. There is a lot more to do with him and Mark later in the book but that would be a spoiler.
She ends up marrying one of them, was it Mark? or Richard? but that is glossed over a bit as it is the journey that is important. She is only in her mid 20s when she does this trip and her travelling skills as well as her mechanical nous are quite extraordinary.
Once home again with her parents she just can’t believe they continue to show no interest in her trip and never really ask her much about it. She was travelling for three years and could find nobody who had an interest in it. So typical eh?
Well I really enjoyed her and her journey and I would love to have been there when she got home and heard about every detail.
I will never stop thinking about her and remembering and appreciating her bravery, perseverance and adventures.
Her writing is excellent and I could feel the bumps, the laughs, the smells, the sounds and the excruciating injuries of her accidents as well as enjoying the food and the culture of all of the countries she visited.
This was definitely the type of travel writing I crave. If I was only 50 years younger.
Translated from the French by Katherine Gregor 2019
Berezina refers to a ‘disastrous situation’
Premise: Four men from Russia and France get three Russian Ural motorcycles and ride from Moscow to Paris in the winter following the retrear of Napoleon from Moscow in 1812.
You’ll need to wear your woolen warmies if you’re reading this book because it is cold. These guys are nuts! First off to have the Ural be the motorcycle transport of choice is crazy.
If you aren’t familiar with a Ural bike, read on:
The Soviets built them in the 1930s, modelling them on the BMWs of the German army. These machines are robotics of the Soviet industry. They promise adventure. You can never tell if they’ll start and once launched, no-one knows if they’ll stop.
They go up to 50 miles per hour. They travel through the countryside devoid of electronic devices. Anybody can repair them with a pair of metal pliers. You. need to get used to driving them, avoid turning right too quickly on pain of lifting the basket and constantly adjust the profile towards the left. For the past twenty years, driven by a blend of fascination and masochism. (Page 35)
Did I mention two of the bikes on the trip had sidecars.
These guys are history buffs and absolutely besotted with the history of Napoleon. The reader learns a great deal about the military retreat of Napoleon when he could not conquer Russia and they in turn, with thousands of troops send him back out of the country. The descriptions of the battles, the deep snow and the stubbornness and insanity of Napoleon at times is quite interesting though I must warn the battles can get quite graphic.
These men wanted to experience the conditions that Napoleon suffered so they are riding across Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France. Most of it in blinding blizzards, deep snow, sub zero temperatures, breaking down constantly, getting drunk on vodka most nights. It is a book I couldn’t put down because I couldn’t believe they were doing this.
I learned more about Napoleon than I needed but it is fascinating history. Two men had to leave during the trip due to other commitments but the other two kept ploughing through. I can’t believe they actually survived the trip. Here are another couple of passages:
“A motorbike helmet is a meditation cell. Trapped inside, ideas circulate better than in the open air. (I can confirm this.) It would be ideal to be able to smoke in there. Sadly, the lack of space in an integral crash helmet prevents one from drawing on a Havana cigar, and the ensuing wind blows out the burning tip when the helmet is open. A helmet is also a sounding box. It’s nice to sing inside it It’s like being in a recording studio. I hummed the epigraph from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night. These lines were to become my mantra for weeks to come. (page 58)”
Our life is a journey. Through Winter and Night, We try to find our way, Beneath a sky without light.
They often referred to “a top location”. You might wonder what that means. Here is their definition.
” Is a stretch of geography fertilised by the tears of History, a piece of territory made sacred by an act, cursed by a tragedy, a land that, over the centuries, keeps echoing with hushed-up suffering or past glory. It’s a landscape blessed by tears and blood. You stand before it and suddenly sense a presence, a surge, a manifestation of something you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s the echo of History, the fossilised radiation of an event that seeps out of the soil like a wave. Tragedy has been so intense here, and in such a short space of time, that the geography hasn’t recovered yet. The trees may have grown but the Earth continues to sugar. When it drinks too much blood it becomes a to location. Then you must look at it in silence because it’s haunted by ghosts. (page 107).
And last but not least is a short insight into Napoleon.
” Napoleon had always felt the need to strive towards an idea. Did he not profess that the world was led by imagination? He would project on the screen of the future the images of his mental constructions. Nothing must hinder the mechanics, a defeat was not conceivable. This is why the Emperor gives the impression of brushing aside the Russian disaster, minimising it, and casting it out of his mind. Sadly, the means at his disposal were never sufficient to brig his plans to a successful conclusion, and to consolidate the work he had begun in every direction and every country. He started everything and finished nothing. He wanted to redesign the world, but didn’t achieve a single local reform.
And so his reign was like the sleigh trip: a crazy pursuit. (Page 156)”
In finishing I’d like to say the Penguin suggested I rehome this book so if you’d like a copy of it email me or leave in the comments you’d like it. If more than one I’ll use the random generator. It’s a relatively small book so happy to mail it anywhere in the world.
About the author: Sylvain Tesson has traveled the world by bicycle, train, horse, motorcycle and on foot. His best selling accounts of his travels have won numerous prices, including the Dolman Best Travel Book Award for the Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga (2013)
I have probably had the most chaotic time in the past six weeks I’ve had in a long time. First things first. We are heading overseas to Russia and the Baltic countries on Thursday. I will be taking my laptop with me and although I do say I will try to put up blog posts I find the 20 persons tours we go on are exhausting. However I will try a bit harder. The days we have dinners out at night give us less time for anything else. We are heading to Moscow and St Petersburg then onto Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic. It is a 27 days tour.
Next up, is, our dog Odie had his second ultrasound scan and the tumours remain unchanged so he very happily remains with us. Our house sitter has been briefed and is an angel who cares for him in conjunction with our vet. We expect he will be with us awhile longer. We really are overjoyed at that.
I just had a week in Sydney with two good friends. As it was booked months ago, the timing turned out to be difficult as so much going on but it was a good distraction and we had lots of fun. I spent three days of photography with one friend and then four days of theatre, shopping and a film. We saw The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at the Sydney Opera House. It is a very wordy play and I thought a bit too long. But once we figured out the first act of a play within a play we soldiered on. One night we went to the beautiful Capital Theatre and saw the musical Chicago. It is thoroughly entertaining with great music, dance, choreography and voices that brought the house down. Lots of fun. We had one very rainy day so ended up at Events Cinema on George street, a large, almost empty theatre to see Downton Abbey which we loved. I hope to see it a second time. It was so much fun.
We also loved visiting the independent Glee Books on Glebe Pt Rd and the second hand shop next door and the big Japanese book store in the Victoria Galleries, Kinokuniya.
I brought back two books, one from Glee Books and one from Kinokuniya. I thought I would share them with you.
Writing Across the Landscape 1960 to 2010 edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson. This is one of the stories of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, now 100 years old, who has been many things: (from the blurb on the back) a poet, painter, pacifist, publisher, courageous defender of free speech and the co-founder of San Francisco’s legendary City Lights bookstore. (A store I absolutely adore.) This is a compilation of his travel journals spanning 60 years of various places around the world. It’s a chunkster so won’t be travelling with it but the bits I’ve dipped into are fascinating.
The book I purchased at Glee Books is called Thumbing It : A Hitchiker’s Ride to Wisdom by Barbara Noske. I have just begun it and not sure if I’ll travel with it as I only tend to take books I’m happy to leave behind and this is not one of them….yet.
Barbara Noske is mad about hitchhiking, especially in trucks, and has 40 years of it, in, among other places, Europe, Algeria, the Sahara, as well as the vast expanse of Canada and the Australian outback. She is a Dutch anthropologist and philosopher whose field is the relationship and the similarities between humans and animals. She lives in the Dutch countryside with a horse and a bike. She has no driver’s license and no smartphone. (Blurb on the backside)
She travelled during the days before the internet, google maps and smart phones. I really enjoy tales of travel from brave women in the past.
I finished Shaun Bythell’s book Confessions of a Bookseller, the sequel to his first bookseller’s tale, The Diary of a Bookseller, in Wigtown, Scotland. It is identical in structure to his first book I know many people have read. If you really enjoyed the first book I would recommend this one. There are more characters introduced, just as quirky as those in the first book. I found it a delightful read, especially in relation to all of the things going on around here during the past month.
Other good news is one of my photos made the finals in the Fremantle, Western Australia International Portrait Prize and will be on exhibition in October. I have been invited to attend but will be overseas so will not be able to. I really am in shock that it has been recognised as a finalist.
I could go on for another couple of paragraphs of activity but feel this has been enough. I wish everyone well and hope to be in touch again soon.
PS- I will remember to pack the Penguin and hopefully he will not end up in a Russian gulag or lost on a bus somewhere.
It is a cold blustery day down here and I am loving it. I don’t have to go anywhere today. Mr. Penguin is house-sitting for a friend for a couple of weeks so it’s very quiet. It’s the kind of day where there is time to snuggle with the pets, read a backlog of things piling up, watch a bit of Netflix and eat food that doesn’t go together. Just graze. Did I mention how quiet it is. Phone is turned off. Instant message is ignored. Except for Mr. Penguin.
The last week has happened in bits and pieces. It is that time of year where throats get a bit sore and you hope the flu shot you had works.
Last night a friend and I went to the Playhouse Theatre in Hobart. It is the home of the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society that was established in 1926. They feature amateur community productions. One often sees the same actors from play to play. The plays can be excellent and there is a very congenial attitude of mixed ages in the audience. Also chocolate is very cheap. You get a chocolate bar, a glass of wine if you wish, take it to your seat and enjoy the play. I support them every year by going to most of their performances. Last night we saw a production of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was a cold and windy night and the audience wasn’t packed like it usually is but the people who bothered to come out had a good time. They didn’t seem to have enough men/boys for the pirates so many girls played both girls and boys. They made good pirates. A young woman played the part of 14 year old Jim Hawkins and she did such a good job. Long John Silver was great fun. (Can’t find actor’s name). It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday night despite the cold.
Books this week:
I finished the Mongolian horse race book by Lara Prior-Palmer, Rough Magic. I found it to be an average read. I liked her writing and hearing about the logistics of the horse race. She wrote about some of the Mongolian people she met and that was interesting. I got a little bit tired in parts when she flashes back to other times in her life. I think she had a lot of time to think of her past as the traversed the long days on the Mongolian steppes. I know when I rode my Scooter from Hobart to Long Reach, Queensland in Australia (one way 2300 kms/1450 miles) I was on very long straight stretches of road and your mind wanders to all sorts of memories, thoughts, creative ideas, future plans. She put a lot of these thoughts into her book. I would give it three stars. Just a good read. However I do think she is a character whom I will remember for a long time and I will remember her story. That is always a good measure of a book.
I am currently listening to a non-fiction Australian story called My Mother, A Serial Killer written by the daughter, Hazel Baron and Janet Fife-Yeomans narrated by Kate Hosking who does a brilliant job.
Good Reads describes it as: A gripping and shocking story of a serial killer mother, and the brave daughter who brought her to justice. Dulcie Bodsworth was the unlikeliest serial killer. She was loved everywhere she went, and the townsfolk of Wilcannia, which she called home in the late 1950s, thought of her as kind and caring. The officers at the local police station found Dulcie witty and charming, and looked forward to the scones and cakes she generously baked and delivered for their morning tea.
That was one side of her. Only her daughter Hazel saw the real Dulcie. And what she saw terrified her.
Dulcie was in fact a cold, calculating killer who, by 1958, had put three men in their graves – one of them the father of her four children, Ted Baron – in one of the most infamous periods of the state’s history. She would have got away with it all had it not been for Hazel.
Written by award-winning journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans together with Hazel Baron, My Mother, A Serial Killer is both an evocative insight into the harshness of life on the fringes of Australian society in the 1950s, and a chilling story of a murderous mother and the courageous daughter who testified against her and put her in jail.
I am really enjoying this bit of Australian history of this woman. It isn’t so much the murders. They are discussed but the main part of this story is the psychological machinations of this woman’s mind. Her manipulation, how she fools everyone in the communities she visits. If she were an animal she would be a feral cat. It is a shame she didn’t put her brilliant mind towards something worthwhile.
I am about half way through it and every time I sit down to rest a bit or before going to sleep I put the audible app on another 30 minutes to listen. It is true to its word as it details “society on the fringes” in the 1950’s which is a time period I enjoy reading about in both Australia and the USA. If you enjoy this type of book I can certainly recommend it.
Our photo club meeting is coming up this coming Thursday evening. We have two digital challenges I had to put up. One category is “Open” and the other category is “Hidden Spaces”. The print challenge category is “Abstract”. We get two of our images printed and upon arrival at the meeting we lay them out on a long table with our names on the back. Nobody knows who they belong to though some put in the same type of genres so easy to guess. I like to mix it up a bit so no one knows mine ahead of time. At the tea break during the meeting, members attending vote on their favourites. The first place (which I have never won) gets a bottle of wine. Second and third places get chocolate. I have come in third place a couple of times and enjoyed some chocolate. I love challenges and competitions and enter often both in and out of the club meetings. It is a good way to learn new types of techniques and genres of photography.
So I’ll pop up the challenge photos for this week for you to have a look at. They are all quite different. Until next time….the Penguin and I say..Have a good week. If you’re in the northern hemisphere stay cool. If you’re anywhere near Tasmania or Melbourne, stay warm.
I have a lot of photos to sort through so I thought I’d put a few up here on Thursdays, hence Penguin’s Thursday Travel Photos. If you aren’t interested in photos then you can just ignore the post. It will be more of a journal for myself and I do have quite a few photographers that check in from my posting on Instagram.
These photos are from Valencia, Spain. I enjoy street photography. My aim is to document what happens on the streets and to find people that are not holding a mobile phone. That in itself is a challenge in itself. I don’t want photos of a bunch of people walking around holding mobiles.
Those who are visiting here today…I hope you enjoy.
I wrote a very long post here last Sunday. I included all of the photos. I then decided to move one photo and as I dragged it a couple of lines higher the entire post disappeared. It hasn’t been seen since. Frustrated I turned the computer off and went and watched an episode of Master Chef. I’m trying to catch up on the episodes I missed while away. I am enjoying it so much. What I enjoy the most is the support the contestants and judges give to one another. They truly seem happy for the success of others. It is about time reality tv (though there isn’t much I watch) get away from the snarky personalities. The world is cruel enough at times.
Anyway….. Back to last week’s post. I have read or partly read three travel books. As I have said before I really do enjoy good travel writing. The first book I began and read half way through was Walking the Camino by Tony Kevin. I enjoy books by people who walk long distances and have read other books about the El Camino Pilgrimmage trail in Spain. Having just come back from Spain I had a clearer idea of where cities are and thought this would be really good. It is a really good book and the writing is wonderful but it isn’t much about the walk. It is about the history of the walk, the villages, the country. I think about 80% of this book is pure history. When I read a book about a walking journey I like to hear about the places, the accommodations, the hike, the feelings about the exertion the hike takes. I like to hear the about the conversations with others doing the same thing that the walker meets.
You kind of get the idea. I didn’t want to hear anymore about the Roman history in the country, the Arab history in the country, the Spanish Civil war (in depth). I wasn’t interested in the history of agriculture in Spain. I spent two weeks on my trip learning more history of Spain than I probably ever learned in 12 years of schooling. What is the walk like??? I finally put the book aside.
The second book of travel writing is much better. Stranger Country by Chinese Australian author Monica Tan. Ms. Tan is a young woman of Chinese ancestry but born in Australia. She visited China and marveled at the sense of family and connectedness of people in China. She thought a lot about Australia as a nation and seemed to understand the only people in this country that have that are the Aboriginal people. They have strong connections to the country and to their ancestors. She wanted to know more about it so she put her job on hold as a journalist working for The Guardian and spent several months driving 30,000 kms around Australia learning about Aboriginal culture. She was a bit worried about going into the remote areas of Australia as a young woman travelling alone and as a Chinese-Australian woman knowing the racism against Asians in many parts of Australia. This book is that journey. Her writing is interesting and I learned a lot of the lessons she learned. If one enjoys any of these topics then I would comfortably recommend this book.
The third book of travel writing I’m listening to now on Audible is Rough Magic: Riding The World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer. Ms. Palmer is a young woman who lives in England. She is also the neice of past Olympic rider Lucinda Green. Anyone who has followed show jumping or Olympic and World show jumping will have heard of Lucinda Green. I have chuckled at her descriptions of horses, riders and events many times in the past while watching these competitions. She can be quite over the top at times but she knows her horses. Lara sought quite a bit of advice from her aunt Lucinda about horses as she entered this race not having a lot of riding experience or knowledge of horses. It really seemed quite a hare-brained adventure to undertake.
Ms. Palmer is bored with her young life and wants to do something different. She hears of the 1000 mile horse race across Mongolia that happens each year on Mongolian ponies. Now I am the first one to stand up against horse racing as we know it in Australia. But this race is much different to the greed and cruelty we see in much of horse racing in the west.
The ponies can only be ridden forty miles per day and then they are changed. They are bred to be tough, and many run with little encouragement. If a rider does not get off from a pony immediately if it goes lame they are heavilypenalized . The horse comes first in this race. There are quite a few breaks during the day and in the evening the pony is cared for before the rider.
There are several young men and women participating in this race and overall I am enjoying hearing about the country side of Mongolia, the culture in bits and pieces and the tales about the people she meets. The other riders are certainly described in detail especially when it comes to their personalities. I would say it is an average read. The writing is good and if this is a topic that one finds interesting so far it is a gentle read. She rides many ponies as the race is 1000 miles and as there are many legs of it she keeps a log of the ponies she rides based on their personalities and appearance.. Some ponies barely move in this race while others move like the wind. They are not trained beyond basic commands so if it takes off running the rider must just hang on. Having been raised with horses in my teenage years I enjoy hearing about horse events but they must be treated kindly.
It is also interesting how they cope with the weather, quite often getting caught in storms and a single pair of clothes that must endure for the length of the race. They often sleep in wet jodphurs or dirty tee shirts.
And of course there is a bit of fantasizing that goes on from the young women over arrogant Devon, who is a young male who continually leads the race.
I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest travel writing I’ve read but it does keep my attention and it is certainly different from the long journeys around Europe many people write about while walking, bicycling or motor biking.
Have you heard of any of these books? What travel writing do you enjoy and what do you think travel writing should include?