Upcoming travels, stories, news
MY NEW EBOOK:
A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo. Or, can this travel writer be green? ($us4.99 from all ebook sellers.) NOTE: this booklet is an entrant in the 2015 Malaysian tourism Awards.
FUTURE TRAVELS and blogs
Dubai (October 2015)
Oman (October 2015)
Northland, New Zealand (Jan 2016)
RECENT TRAVELS so upcoming blogs:
Sarawak, Malaysia (August 2015) Rainforest World Music Festival
Fiji - boutique cruise (May 2015)
Melbourne (February 2015)
Tasmania (February 2015)
Florida (June/ July 2015
Georgia (July 2015)
California (July 2015)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Weeki Wachee Springs is a very, very small ‘city’ with a population of 4. It’s also a Florida state park and ‘the world’s only city of live mermaids’ who perform in the Underwater Theatre which was built into the limestone of the spring in 1947.
When the curtains parted, the sun shone into the turquoise spring, and schools of small fish and turtles swam into view. Then, from some deeper part of the spring a mermaid swam up to the glass in a mermaid tail. Waving and smiling, she swam the entire width of the glass without appearing to need to breathe. However, at some 6 metres deep, the free-divers have air hoses to get their oxygen. I was amazed at how they used the hoses, which just float in the water in between them breathing from them, and I was anxious they would find them and get to breath.
While I was a little dubious about visiting this attraction I found it fascinating about how it was done. I’m not a diver so this is not something I would ever try to do – especially when I find out they have to down a long pipe to get into the pool: I’d panic!
These are natural spring, some 50 metres deep, which feed the Weeki Wachee River, which pumps huge quantities of fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico daily. The state’s goal is to keep the spring and the river healthy, and I heard someone say ‘ it’s debatable how much the show helps environmental efforts’.
Mermaids are said to be aquatic creatures with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish – appearing in the myths worldwide. Sightings of them are now thought to have been sirenia (a biological order comprising dugongs and manatees) and the sightings by sailors were really encounters with these aquatic mammals. Although Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean so I may be wrong!
Mermaids of course have been a popular subject of art and literature in recent centuries – for instance Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale The Little Mermaid where a young mermaid falls in love with a human prince whom she saves from drowning when his ship was wrecked. A world-famous statue, based on Andersen’s fairy tale, has been in Copenhagen, Denmark for over 100 years.
As well as watching the mermaid show, we also went on a short trip on the river with its extremely clear water. I believe canoes can be hired too.
Christchurch in particular is proud that local woman, Kate Sheppard, was the leader and figurehead of the suffrage movement that resulted in a petition that ensured all New Zealand woman were able to vote from 1893.
New Zealand is the first country in the world to give women the vote: married, single, migrant, indigenous, poor, rich, with or without land, working or not – all women were able to vote with the passing of the 1893 Electoral Bill.
Notice we kiwi did not use the word ‘suffragettes’ as we’d the vote some twenty years before that term was coined!
Born to Scottish parents, Kate came to New Zealand in 1868 with her widowed mother, and New Zealand honours her by having her image on our ten-dollar note.
Every Suffrage Day, 19th September, a few women gather at the Christchurch memorial panel to pay tribute to all those wonderful women by placing white camellias and purple balloons on this inner city sculpture. Note this is at the corner of Worcester Boulevard & Cambridge Terrace – although with post-quake (2010/11) plans it may be moved.
A punk rock musical about her struggles with the Prime Minister (Seddon) has recently been performed at the Christchurch Festival .. called That Bloody Woman, it had good reviews so I look forward to seeing it soon – apparently some were initially ‘shocked at the opening scenes’ when her sexual behaviour was exposed but ‘this quickly abated as the story developed’ I was told.
The memorial was unveiled in 1993, the 100th anniversary of this historic event. It has six women on it with Kate Sheppard holding the petition in a wheelbarrow which is how the petition was delivered to the steps of Parliament in Wellington. The side panels show women in typical everyday (1893) settings – gathering shellfish, teaching, factory sewing, farming, caring for families and nursing. These are flanked by bronze panels telling the New Zealand suffrage story.
Here are more pictures about one of our favourite kiwi women.
Three cheers to ‘that bloody woman’ I say!
Only 15 km from Kuching (and 5 km from the Damai Beach Resort (where I have stayed three times while at the magical, annual Rainforest World Music Festival) is the Kuching Wetlands National Park (2002) in the estuarine reaches of two rivers.
It’s also where I have twice planted mangrove trees as part of the “Greening of the Festival” which Sarawak Tourism does with all the festivals it hosts, helping offset the carbon I’ve spent getting to Malaysian Borneo.
The park is a mostly saline mangrove system of many waterways and tidal creeks connecting the two major rivers that form the boundaries of the park.
An important spawning and nursery ground for fish and prawn species and it also has a wide diversity of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaque monkeys, silver-leaf monkeys, monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles and a range of bird life, including kingfishers, white-bellied sea eagles and shore birds, including the rare lesser adjutant stork. In 2005 Malaysia designated the park as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.
To explore this park you need to travel on the river and a number of tour operators offer coastal and river cruises in and around the park.
To read more about eco-tourism in Malaysian Borneo see my small book (A love letter to Malaysian Borneo or, can this travel writer be green) which has been entered in the Malaysian Tourism 2015 Awards.
Many thanks to Rash (Jo’s Bamboo Cuisine) who really tried hard to teach me to get the insides out of these native snail while at the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Rainforest World Music Festival (#RWMF) earlier this month.
While she and other locals made it seem so easy, it became very obvious I need to practise sucking more, or, carry a pin to winkle them out next time!
“It’s easy, just suck, then eat.” As she also told me … they’re like rubbery chewing gum!
These three photos are copyright to the Sarawak Tourism Board and were taken by the official Rainforest World Music Fesival photographers