Debi Slinger https://www.debislinger.com The Travelling Spy Sun, 17 Mar 2019 06:27:06 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://www.debislinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-IMG_0238-32x32.jpg Debi Slinger https://www.debislinger.com 32 32 Camping at Plantation Campground – Grampians National Park https://www.debislinger.com/camping-at-plantation-campground-grampians-national-park/ https://www.debislinger.com/camping-at-plantation-campground-grampians-national-park/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 22:00:24 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5444 My first camping trip to Plantation was back in the ’90s with a small group of students which included a week of bushwalking, rock climbing and abseiling. The weather was kind and the excitement levels were high as we explored the Grampians each day with the finale culminating in a day trip to ‘The Pinnacle’ where…

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My first camping trip to Plantation was back in the ’90s with a small group of students which included a week of bushwalking, rock climbing and abseiling. The weather was kind and the excitement levels were high as we explored the Grampians each day with the finale culminating in a day trip to ‘The Pinnacle’ where we could view the enormity of the district and its natural features.

Entry to Plantation Campground is opposite this sign

Not much has changed since then but it’s obvious that Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) have invested some time and money into upgrading the toilets, installed two solar showers, improving the water tanks, defining the campground sites, grading the campsites so they are flatter and creating better parking areas. In other words, they’ve given it a facelift.

Information board at the campground entrance

The Plantation Campground was originally an old Radiata Pine forest with remnants of some of the big trees still offering respite to campers on hot days. Located at the eastern edge of the Mount Difficult Range, it’s 10kms from Halls Gap, 32kms from Mt Stapylton Campground at the northern end of the Grampians and easily accessible to some excellent walks and picnic sites. Aboriginal rock shelters and world-class climbing is also accessible in the Northern Grampians.

Old radiata pine still exist within the park

Access

From the Halls Gap end head towards Stawell and just out of town, take the Mt Zero Road turnoff. The first 1km is bitumen and the remaining 8.5kms is unsealed but suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.

From the Western Highway at Stawell, follow the signs to Halls Gap and turn right into Mt Zero Road. Total distance is around 33kms.

Entrance to the park

Bookings

No booking or payment is required at this campground. This campground operates on a first in, first served basis. However, there is a donation box at the entrance which assists Parks Vic in walking track maintenance.

Why not donate what you would normally spend on camping fees for improving the walking tracks in The Grampians.

Campsites

There are 30 campsites at Plantation Campground. These sites cater to tent-based camping, caravans, campervans and camper trailers. Each site at Plantation Campground accommodates a maximum of 6 people. Sites are unpowered. My favourite is Campsite F which is towards the back of the campground and has nice shady areas to pitch your tent or park your camper.

The campground slightly slopes away from the entry but not enough to worry about your camping experience. The campsites are a mixture of locations with some bordered with tea-trees, thryptomeme, yellow gums and stringybarks. The space between each campsite is generous so you won’t feel like you’re camping on top of other people

If you want to camp under trees, please follow the usual camping common sense of making sure it’s safe. Note: there are signs warning of the dangers of limbs dropping – common Australian vegetation issue.

Interesting how people push the boundaries. Sign to the right of the tents says ‘No Camping Beyond This Point’ – a technicality perhaps!

Introduced myself to the owners of this Troup Carrier – Skye and Emu. (you can find them on Instagram at @emu_escape). Brilliantly designed from scratch and completely independent no matter where they travel. One of the joys of being a blogger (and a wee bit of an extrovert) is that I enjoy chatting to people on their travels. Such lovely young people on a great adventure.

One of the best hand made rigs I’ve seen travelling across Australia

Campers and trailers are welcome

There is a nice grassy space ideal for a game of cricket, kick of the footy or other activities. The local lawn mowers – wallabies, come and mow it each morning to keep the grass down.

Facilities

Non-flush toilets (long drop/composting), bush showers, shared fireplaces and shared picnic tables.

Toilets and water tank and shower at the northern end of the campground

Cleverly designed camp shower

Hot showers bush style

Water

No drinking water supplied; limited non-potable water may be available from a seasonal rainwater tank and creek-fed campground taps. If you HAD to use the water, boil for at least 10 minutes.

BYO water. This is not drinkable.

Taps for water but not drinkable

Campfires

Only allowed in designated fireplaces – supply your own wood. Never leave a fire unattended. On Total Fire Ban days, which are common from November to April, you’ll need alternatives for food preparation than using a fireplace. or information on Total Fire Bans check the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

Safe Campfire Use information + Total Fire Ban Days

Rubbish

There is no rubbish collection at this campground, please take all rubbish with you.

Pets

Not allowed but check out these little cuties hanging out to dry. Some gorgeous ‘little campers’ animals getting a freshen up in the bush.

Wildlife

Expect the usual – kangaroos, wallabies (which are very dark in colour) and possums. Note that they are nocturnal so you’re more likely to see them at dusk and dawn but will enter campsites during the night on the hunt for leftover food. There are koalas within the area but I’ve never seen them at this campsite. Haven’t seen wombats here either. Birdlife is prolific with emus, quails, magpies, currawongs, tawny frogmouths, peregrine falcons, owls, thornbills and plenty of parrots. Here is a list of the birds within the park.

Phone Network

Dodgy at the best of times. It’s intermittent and can drop out quickly.

Open space for cricket, football, frisbee etc.

Activities

Climbing and abseiling – whether you’re already a climber or want to engage the services of a local guide, the sandstone climbing is excellent.

Bushwalking – There are so many great walks suitable for all fitness levels and ages. The Information Centre in Halls Gap is good and you can view more at this site here. 

Road and Mountainbike riding – If the Mt. Zero Road wasn’t bitumen, you could actually ride completely around the entire Grampians on bitumen – what a hoot that would be. If you’d like to circumnavigate The Grampians on bitumen currently, you would have to ride out to the Western Highway by Dadswell Bridge and come back through to Halls Gap via Stawell.

Never too young to practice your riding. Plenty of room at the campground for kids to explore on their bikes.

Note:

While most people know the mountain range as The Grampians, Aboriginal people have always known this place as Gariwerd.

Gariwerd is a special place, a place central to the dreaming of Aboriginal people, particularly the Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali the traditional people of this area. Their descendants are still at Gariwerd involved in maintaining the culture and the stories of the land.

Gariwerd is a very spiritual place for Aboriginal people, because of the dreaming stories and the abundance of food, water and shelter it provides. This is evidenced by the number of occupation sites found in Gariwerd and the fact, that still today Aboriginal people are drawn to this place. Further evidence of the Aboriginal presence in the area is the fact that Gariwerd contains 90% of the rock art sites in Victoria.

The Cultural Centre in Halls Gap is well worth a visit. You can find more information about it here and highly encourage you to spend some time exploring the facility.

Vehicle-based campingWood fireplaceNow it’s your turn.

What are your experiences of camping at Plantation Campground? How have you found other campers?

Leave a comment below.

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Finding Frida https://www.debislinger.com/finding-frida/ https://www.debislinger.com/finding-frida/#respond Mon, 04 Feb 2019 22:00:04 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5098 Who was this bohemian, evocative artist Frida Kahlo, and why has she risen to such posthumous media popularity and commercialisation, over the last decade? Whether you’ve seen a ‘Frida lookalike’ flash mob in the USA, posters of her self-portraits or even tacky fridge magnets in discount stores, the Mexican born artist may either be on…

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Who was this bohemian, evocative artist Frida Kahlo, and why has she risen to such posthumous media popularity and commercialisation, over the last decade?

Whether you’ve seen a ‘Frida lookalike’ flash mob in the USA, posters of her self-portraits or even tacky fridge magnets in discount stores, the Mexican born artist may either be on the brink of overexposure or held up as a feminist icon who was ahead of her time.

Finding Frida

 

On a recent trip to Mexico City, a visit to the Kahlo family home was a must. Not just a visit to a talented and maybe somewhat eccentric artist’s studio but also to understand if the hype and frenzy taking the world were just indeed just a trend.

Frida was born in this hacienda and was also to die here. Both home and studio, to say this modernist cultural landmark building takes your breath away is an understatement. Differing completely from anything in the neighbourhood, it’s not hard to find the Studio Museum and any taxi driver worth their weight in gold knows the way.

Intrepid Travel Review - Mexico Unplugged

Arriving early in the small town of Coyoacán and being something of a ‘wannabe’ artist myself, the moment I took my place amongst the 100 or so other visitors lining the adobe cobalt blue walls, I was entranced by the two-story home that holds not just Frida’s work but also that of the great muralist Diego Rivera who it has been well documented as her on-again, off- again, lover and husband.

The thick blue walls belie the stunning interior which maintains the cobalt colour on the inside but is mixed with courtyards abundant with lush green plants and the subtle sounds of fountains. A sprinkling of Kahlo and Rivera sculptors, many of which are skeletons standing or hang randomly throughout the property.

Finding Frida

Entry into the interior part of the home is one way directed by guides. The pace is slow but there is so much to absorb even as you move towards the entrance. Handmade plaques, mosaic pots and the hypnotic tiered pyramid that is lined with cactus and succulents.

The home represents the daily life of Frida with many of her personal belongings on display such as her illustrated diary, a collection of letters, brushes, pigments, easels, photographs and her stunning signature collection of Hispanic jewellery. Seeing a wheelchair pulled up close to an easel is a reminder of the daily pain Frida endured after afflicted with polio at age six and then a bus accident at 18, leaving her with permanent and painful lifelong injuries.

Finding Frida

Inside are small parlours that are known to have entertained famous people of the time such as Nelson Rockefeller, Sergei Eisenstein, George Gershwin and even Leon Trotsky who lived as a guest within the Kahlo/Rivera walls after being exiled from Russia and ended up moving to Mexico in 1937.

The curators of this museum do a superb job maintaining the authenticity of the era and the grounds are kept in immaculately manicured. There are plenty of small green spaces where you can slide onto a comfortable bench and soak in everything that seems suspended at the time of Kahlo’s death in 1954.

Finding Frida

Leaving the Museum, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no gift shop or retail outlet, which for me maintained its legitimacy as a collection of someone’s creative life and not a place for merchandise. However, you can cross the road to a market and find a limited array of items such as Frida nail polish, Frida tote bags, Frida painted beach stones and so on.

Interestingly, in all my time in Mexico, the body of Frida’s work was rarely represented in shop windows or stores. Rather, you are inundated with the now even more currently popular ‘day of the dead’ souvenirs which confronts you at every corner.

Finding Frida

Perhaps the Mexican’s honour the legacy of Frida by not over commercialising her work in their own country. For me, this shows that for an artist you used symbolism in her work, she has, in fact, become a symbol of a great woman herself.

Frida’s most poignant message of all was embroidered on a pillow which to this day still lays on her bed. It merely says “Do not forget me, my love’.

Frida you will never be forgotten.

As printed in the Warrandyte Diary January 2019 (pages 26 & 27) which you can view here.

Now it’s your turn.

Have your visited an artist’s studio and been in awe of the body of their work, their life, how they were / are so creative?

Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

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Scottish doctors are now issuing prescriptions to go hiking https://www.debislinger.com/scottish-doctors-are-now-issuing-prescriptions-to-go-hiking/ https://www.debislinger.com/scottish-doctors-are-now-issuing-prescriptions-to-go-hiking/#respond Tue, 29 Jan 2019 22:00:54 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5356 I loved this article so much I had to share. I certainly know that my cup is filled when I spend time outdoors and I know I’m not the only one. This excellent article expands on that. Scotland’s Shetland Islands are windswept and rugged, full of wide-open vistas, thousands of squawking migratory birds, awesome rock…

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Scotland’s Shetland Islands are windswept and rugged, full of wide-open vistas, thousands of squawking migratory birds, awesome rock formations, and winding trails. An epic place for long, lingering walks and time spent decompressing in the joys of raw nature.

It just so happens that doctors are increasingly starting to realize time spent outdoors can be an excellent treatment for chronic health issues. So doctors in the Shetlands are now issuing “nature prescriptions” as part of an initiative to address health issues without drugs if you can imagine that.

For everything from high blood pressure to diabetes, anxiety, and depression, the medical community is learning (though lots of us have always known) that many ailments and diseases can be treated with activities like birdwatching, maybe a little kayaking, perhaps combing a beach for shells, even skipping pebbles across a slow-moving stream. Even just sitting silently in a forest, meditating (see: Japan, forest bathing).

NHS Shetland, the health authority in the Scottish archipelago, has authorized doctors to prescribe brushes with nature not as replacements for traditional health care, at least not exclusively, but as a healthy supplement. The hope is the program will be a success and open others’ eyes in the traditional medical community to such non-traditional and subtle treatments for body and mind.

“We would like this to be picked up by other areas or health boards,” said Helen Moncrieff, a health manager in the Shetland. “There is so much evidence that nature is good for us, and this is a simple way to get people outdoors and experiencing nature in a city or a wilder place like Shetland,” she said.

Hiking, swimming, cycling—just getting outdoors and moving have been shown to have dramatically beneficial health effects, but the nature prescription program also taps into a connection with wilderness as a means to provide an easy kind of self-care.

Authorities have published a seasonal calendar with the help of a bird watching society filled with suggestions to get outside and let nature work its magic.

Appreciate a passing cloud, the programs suggests. Plop down in the grass and make a daisy chain. “Really look at a lichen.” Stare out to the sea and watch for passing whales. On a brisk, windy and rainy day, stand still, close your eyes and let the wind rush past and “feel the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face.”

Connect with the elements, in other words. Feel a part of the natural world, and, well, heal thyself. No billing department necessary.

Reprinted from The Adventure Journal. Article was written by Justin Housman on 22 October. Click here original source.

Now it’s your turn.

Have you found outdoors as ‘the best medicine’?

Leave a comment below.

 

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15 Proven Benefits of Outdoor Education – Part 3 https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-3/ https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-3/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 22:00:40 +0000 http://www.debislinger.com/?p=4234 This is the third part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education. So following on from my article a week ago, here are Part Three of the benefits of Outdoor Education. 11. A sense of community guardianship The beauty of Outdoor education is that it allows young people to see how they…

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This is the third part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education. So following on from my article a week ago, here are Part Three of the benefits of Outdoor Education.

11. A sense of community guardianship

The beauty of Outdoor education is that it allows young people to see how they fit into the world. By exploring their local environment gives them an appreciation and awareness for their community. This results in them to act with more conscious respect. When they see rubbish dumped at a Park entrance or the local creek choked with plastic, there will often consider how this has come to be and what could’ve/ should’ve / would’ve been a better action. This may lead to students to engage with local organisations so they feel they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  We want our young people to be able to be successful young citizens who will possess the adaptability to cope with a rapidly changing world of work and the responsibility to be an effective member of a community. When involved in challenging outdoor experiences that promote the development of communication, problem-solving and decision making skills, this carries over into future occupations which are sought after by employers.

12. Development of  Outdoor Skills

It has been shown over time that the most effective means of learning skills is by doing. In a 2006 study by Martin, Cashel, Wagstaff, and Breunig, they definitively stated that study and learning outdoor activities can only come with experience — experience kids get through outdoor education. The caveat here is that these are really only limited to the comfort level of the instructor with risk themselves. So whether you are navigating with a compass, building a campfire or setting up a campsite – an instructor’s confident and risk tolerance does have an impact on students.

13. Self-reliance increases

To prove definitely that being in the outdoors changes a student in self-reliance however, you can see an improvement in self-dependence and there is evidence to support in this 1983 study, Ronald Force of Saint Francis Academy and Charles Burdsal of Wichita State University in Kansas found boys with behaviour problems seemed to become more self-reliant after participating in three two-week wilderness hikes. (Girls were not found to show any demonstrable improvement.) In 1995, researcher Jim Zuberbuhler stated in his article “Outdoors the Rules Are Different,” “A willingness to challenge oneself physically and emotionally are integral components of outdoor programs because pushing oneself this way can enhance self-reliance, confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills.”

14. Real world problem solving

Young people can easily fall into the day-to-day routine of life that appears very black and white to children. What with standardised tests, exams with multiple choice answers and ongoing assessment of a child’s abilities fosters this idea. But guess what? The real world is not like that. Nothing is really black and what and in fact, it’s mostly grey. We need to educate our students to be critical thinking and develop those skills so they can be part of the solution in society rather than overwhelmed by the plethora of problems that don’t necessarily have an easy solution.

15. Learning transcends the classroom

Not only does Experiential Education allow young people opportunities to learn outside of their regular classroom, but it also gives them a chance to make those great connections with other students, instructors, teachers and others that apply to the real world. This interconnectedness will hold them in good stead in their social, economic, cultural, political and environmental future.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on the links.

Part 1

Part 2

Now it’s your chance.

What benefits have you seen from outdoor education?

Leave a comment below.

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Hot Air Ballooning over Melbourne https://www.debislinger.com/hot-air-ballooning-over-melbourne/ https://www.debislinger.com/hot-air-ballooning-over-melbourne/#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2019 11:00:20 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5423 Everyone has a bucket list in some way. Maybe it’s written down, shared with a friend or just something you know you want to do in the future. I’m no different to anyone else and have things I want to do – big and small. Today I ticked off a biggie on my long list…

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Everyone has a bucket list in some way. Maybe it’s written down, shared with a friend or just something you know you want to do in the future. I’m no different to anyone else and have things I want to do – big and small. Today I ticked off a biggie on my long list – hot air ballooning over a major city – Melbourne. I’ve ballooned before, interestingly enough, almost 25 years ago to the day, in the Serengeti in 1994. Over a city though would take it up a notch. Making it more wonderful and memorable was that I shared this experience with my daughter who turned 21 a few days prior.

A few things to note – I’m a Melbourne girl. This is my home town and I’ve lived in and around here all my life, as well as other places around the world. It’s been voted the Most Liveable City from 2011 to 2017  The bonus for Melbourne is that there aren’t many major cities around the world that will allow hot air balloon tours, so this is another reason to take it up. Plus, I discovered that hot air ballooning over Melbourne has been acknowledged by the Victorian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame as a ‘must do’ experience for 2016, 2017 and 2018 (at the time of writing), which begs to offer it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

Photo Credit: BalloonMan

This picture above was cleverly taken by Chris who has the ability to manipulate a camera and video that is attached to the balloon, into a variety of positions. Consequently, he can capture these unique photos and give us a wonderful memento and perspective of what WE looked like in the basket.

I’m one of those people who like to do their homework before undertaking this sort of thing, so after a lot of Googling, review reading and speaking to a few contacts within the industry, one name consistently came up – The BalloonMan.

Chris Shorten is the face of BalloonMan, Chief Pilot and certified by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority). What he doesn’t know about ballooning over Melbourne isn’t worth knowing. With over 3000+ pilot hours under your belt and ballooning since 1997, I imagine he’s seen it all. From the moment the day started, his talents shone through from safety briefing right to farewells after our buffet breakfast.

Chris monitoring conditions

Although Melbourne is blessed with consistent air currents, it’s still no easy task to navigate a basket of people across the skies. There is a lot to take into account such as the complexities of wind speed, other aircraft flight paths, current meteorological changes, liaising with the ground crew – even down to the weight distribution within the basket. Chris is not just your pilot but a guide on what can be seen high over Melbourne. Pointing out landmarks, trains pulling into stations, well-known buildings, even balloons on the horizon that were floating over the Yarra Valley.

My excitement had me awake a good half hour before the scheduled wakeup call but knowing what we were about to undertake meant I was more than ready to sacrifice a little sleep. The pickup for the flight was from the Grand Hyatt in a very comfortable minibus. Along the way, Chris gave us our safety briefing and talked about what to expect. After some liaison between the Chris and ground crews, the launch site was changed to a ‘better’ launch site – Yarra Bend. Although on any day the starting point can be at a number of places across Melbourne. Remember, flights are at the mercy of the wind and conditions. Therefore, there can be no real certainty about the start and finish points although the breadth of experience of BalloonMan means they have a well-researched plan on how things will go on the day.

Almost ready for take-off

As we slowly drove into a large empty field, with three other balloon companies behind us, the anticipation was starting to build. Our balloon had eight excited passengers plus the pilot and Daryl was today’s ground crew. I know in other countries they have balloon baskets that can hold 20 people. 10 is the maximum with BalloonMan and I found this made is a much more personalised and intimate experience.

The balloon was hauled off the trailer, unpacked from its cocoon and sprawled lifeless on the grass The basket was put into place and tanks set up. Looking up into the very first light peaking from the east, the sky was one long trail of fruit bats returning from their nightly adventures in the parks and gardens of Melbourne. That in itself was exciting, with a silent, black jetstream of bats overhead until we launched.

It was time to inflate the balloon. With an enormous roar, the burner came to life like a fire-breathing dragon puffing life into the pink silk balloon.

With three other balloon companies lined up parallel with us, jets of gas inflating the balloons, I could see we had ‘the prettiest balloon’! Yes, I know! But it really is a beautiful colour. Here is a short video of not just our balloon but another two being inflated.

Our beautiful balloon

Finally, as the balloon became vertical and Chris gave us the nod, we climbed into the basket with anticipation. Another briefing on how to brace ourselves for landing and then…..without fanfare or noise. “We’re off!” This is where the beauty of our balloon took my breath away, as you look inside and see the bright colours against the rapidly rising dawn.

Another balloon company takes off

It takes you somewhat by surprise that you are in fact moving because the pace is quiet, the wind silent and it’s only when you see the treetops that you take a breath and realise ‘we’re up’. Much like an airport travelator, you move without moving yourself, and it’s quiet and peaceful. Plus when you see other balloons, it’s hard to know if you’re moving faster, slower, going up, going down, sideways or whichever way.

Photo credit: Yasmin Slinger

As we quietly floated over Melbourne, the sounds of a city starting to awaken rose up to us – trains, trams, cars on the freeway and the occasional siren. By the time we landed, the metropolis was well and truly on the move.

Each balloon company runs their own ship (so to speak) but liaise with each other about wind speed or any other important data that makes for a safe and smooth trip for their clients. Our flight was at a different pace and trajectory to others because the wind blows differently at various altitudes.

Photo Credit: Yasmin Slinger

Major tip: ballooning is weather depending so don’t decide to book it on the last day of your trip as the conditions may mean they won’t fly that day and you’ll miss out. I had booked for the 8th January but the weather wasn’t suitable until the 11th, and so please allow for contingency days so as to not miss out due to late planning.

Our landing was even more spectacular than the take-off. Why? Because we were fortunate to float over Melbourne Zoo. We could see the elephants, the giraffes and even the orangutans. As we silently floated above them, oblivious of their aerial visitors, it was a sweet sight and beautiful memory I’ll never forget.

Once we landed safely, we assisted our ground crewman Daryl in packing up the balloon which took no more than 15 minutes. Teamwork makes for light work. Within 20 minutes we were sitting at the Grand Hyatt salivating over the 5-Star champagne buffet breakfast which was held in our very own private dining room and toasting our adventure with BalloonMan champagne.

BalloonMan Bubbles – celebrating our flight

At the time of booking, the cost was $448 per person which included the buffet champagne breakfast.  Certainly, the food was outstanding and a culinary treat. Plus you can dine until at least 10.30am until you’ve had your fill of croissants, juices, cereals, hot food and more.

Fruit buffet at The Grand Hyatt, Collins Kitchen

The bonuses of flying with BalloonMan are:

  • A high definition (HD) video of the trip – click here to view our flight
  • Aerial photos of the balloon
  • Certificate of completion
  • Map of the route taken on the day
  • Was the least expensive balloon company but offered the best value for money

A map of our flight path

Certificate from BalloonMan

You can contact BalloonMan at this link here or call 1800 HOT AIR (1800 468 247). If you have any questions or queries, their staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

Interesting facts about hot air balloon flights

Why are they so early in the morning?

The winds are their best and lightest at dawn with more settled conditions to hot air balloon. If you were to try and fly later in the day when the temperatures are warmer, it’s not as safe and less predictable.

Will I get motion sickness?

It’s unlikely as the balloon moves in a gentle, slow motion. As the balloon rises slowly, floats gently and lands usually gently, there is very little sense that you are in fact moving. This minimises any sensation of motion sickness. You’re also only in the balloon for an hour.

I’m scared of heights, so can I still fly?

Ballooning is different to say, walking to the edge of a cliff where this is a fixed point of reference. Firstly, you are in a large basket where you can hold onto the side, plus inside the basket are ropes to hold as well. I’m 175cms tall and the sides of the basket came up to my sternum so you feel somewhat cocooned.

What should I bring on the flight?

Nothing but essentials, not even a handbag. These will be safely stored with the ground crew vehicle. Depending on the weather, a cardigan, sunglasses and camera. That’s it.

What should I wear on the flight?

It’s actually quite warm in the balloon, ideal for winter months. In other words – dress comfortably. If the morning is chilly, wear layers that you can take off and tie around your waist as you don’t need them. I’d highly recommend closed-toe shoes plus it can be damp underfoot with dew. There are no seats so you’re on your feet for at least 90 minutes. You will have to climb into the balloon basket so no heels! Hot air balloons don’t normally fly high enough for the actual temperature to drop and you will find it’s warmer once you leave the ground. There is no wind chill, as you’re drifting with the wind, at the same speed. The sun is rising, naturally warming the air and the burners act like heaters, generating a nice warmth for everyone in the balloon basket.

Note about cameras

Obviously having a camera is essential but don’t get fixated by taking snaps. Stop and enjoy the moment. Yes, it’s fun to take pics of the sun rising, the balloon inflating, taking off etc. but really, you should just soak up this short experience and enjoy it for what it is. If you’re looking at everything through a camera lens then you’re not living in the moment. Plus the BalloonMan has plenty of pics for you. Oh, and Aviation Regulations dictate that selfie sticks are not allowed.

Now it’s your turn.

What’s your experience of hot air ballooning? Where did you fly? What were your highlights?

Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jewel of Mexico’s Underground https://www.debislinger.com/jewel-of-mexicos-underground/ https://www.debislinger.com/jewel-of-mexicos-underground/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2019 22:00:13 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5121 As I bounce around in the back of a land rover on a rocky, dry track with a half dozen other adventurers, I’m reminded of previous trips into the Australian outback exploring sinkholes. But here in Mexico, it’s just a little different. A local man working for the landowner at Dos Ojos takes our 300…

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As I bounce around in the back of a land rover on a rocky, dry track with a half dozen other adventurers, I’m reminded of previous trips into the Australian outback exploring sinkholes. But here in Mexico, it’s just a little different. A local man working for the landowner at Dos Ojos takes our 300 pesos (AUS$20) without a smile and within a few minutes’ drive, you arrive at what some might call a carpark. I would call it a small clearing – with nothing else around. Nothing! With unpleasant muggy temperatures rising, I’m looking forward to escaping the hot afternoon heat by floating in pristine clear water.

Entry into Dos Lojos

The Yucatan peninsula is riddled with cenotes which translates to sacred well. They are underground caves and rivers, accessible usually from the flat ground above. In fact, if you weren’t told they were there, you’d probably walk past them so narrow are some of the entrances.

From the top looking into Dos Lojos

We are led along a narrow, crude path to where there is a makeshift handrail of local tree branches. Australian OH & S would love this place. The guide points down and we spy a crystal clear azure blue water 12 metres below and he tells us the water is ten metres deep. As we get closer to the entrance, a rickety set of stairs weaves down into the cavern. Some of my companions, confident with the depth, immediately leap in from the edge like kids from the 10m high diving board. Others grab their snorkelling gear, navigate their way down to a small platform above the water level and jump into the enticing pool. I sit at the top of the stairs and soak in this sunlit subterranean world in front of me. I relax, take a breath and let time trickly by as I absorb in everything in front of me. This is truly extraordinary.

60 before sixty - making the most of life

The squeals of excitement from my companions lure me down the now slippery stairs made wet from exiting tourists. In my own time, I carefully slip into the deliciously tepid 25 °C water that stays the same temperature year round. I’m engulfed with what seems a bottomless pool of cerulean, small fish zipping around below me, bats, hummingbirds and stalactites above me. The water is so transparent that visibility is only limited by the available light. As I swim through the pristine waters I feel like I’ve been taken back into a Jurassic world with vines draping wildly on cathedral walls up to the shafts of sunlight peeking through the roof.

Photo courtesy: of www.cenotesmexico.org

There are three scuba divers who I later meet and show me photos they’d taken that morning of skeletal remains of animals who’ve accidentally fallen into the cenote. They were part of an archaeological group exploring, surveying and mapping each cenote in the area. With over 6000 to explore, they have their work cut out for them. The cave system in some cenotes is around 82kms with 28 separate entrances. The deepest passage is nearly 120m and recent investigations lengthened the combined system to nearly 320kms making it one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world.

I chatted with diver John from Florida who had been coming to the caves for many years and was eager to share his historical knowledge. The Mayans revered cenotes because they were a water source in dry seasons. They believed them to be a portal to speak with their gods and a gateway to the afterlife but they were also used for important Maya rites. A number of expeditions in the last 20 years have discovered pottery, artefacts made of gold and human skeletons which probably means the legends of human sacrifice could be true. More recently, three human skeletons were found that carbon-dating has shown that one of those skeletons known as Eve of Naharon was 13,600 years old. On another expedition at 57m, the divers found the remains of a mastodon and human skull, which is probably the oldest evidence of human habitation in the region.

Photo credit: www.divephotoguide.com

What started out as an afternoon of relief from the relentless heat turned into one of the most exciting days of my trip. For hours John and his partner shared stories of their diving adventures in the area, me with my mouth open in awe of their drive and passion.

Here is a video of how you can leap into a cenote – note the perfect entry. Click here.

Beautiful entry into Cenote Yaal Utzil

If you’re thinking of visiting, here are some helpful tips to know beforehand. With nearly 100 visitors a day to some cenotes, come earlier than later. Don’t wear any lotions or sunscreen when you enter a cenote as it can poison fish, plants and other delicate marine life. Swimwear is acceptable plus wear sandals or thongs. Bring a towel and light refreshments as there are no stores nearby. As a safety precaution, I’d leave your valuables at home.

As printed in the Warrandyte Diary September 2018.

Now it’s your turn.

What are your experiences in Mexico?

Leave a comment below.

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15 Proven Benefits of Outdoor Education – Part 2 https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-2/ https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-2/#respond Sat, 29 Dec 2018 22:00:24 +0000 http://www.debislinger.com/?p=4236 This is the second part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education. So following on from part one, here is Part Two of the benefits of Outdoor Education. 6. Improved memory One of the best ways to improve memory and recall is to experience something new and unfamiliar. This releases dopamine into…

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This is the second part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education. So following on from part one, here is Part Two of the benefits of Outdoor Education.

6. Improved memory

One of the best ways to improve memory and recall is to experience something new and unfamiliar. This releases dopamine into the hippocampus where memories are created. Obviously, classrooms where day-in and day-out young people experience education in the same environment – same colours, lighting, scenery, noise, layout and more – their sensory experiences become numb. However, moving the class outside opens up a different world of fresh stimuli for the senses – bonus – this gives the power to lock into the brain and embed the information that they are learning.

7. Kinesthetic Learning

Some students excel in school with worksheets, lectures, practical exams and routine. But most students have better a better knowledge of academic theory when they are able to touch, feel, and do.  They want to see the leaves, hear the water, smell the rain coming – do the experiments, touch the insects. Active, kinesthetic learning is not only more memorable but has also been proven to improve concentration and behaviour.

8. Teamwork

Outdoor projects intuitively connect themselves to group work.  However, in the less controlled setting outside the classroom, students need clearly designated responsibilities.

When working outdoors, I’ve always found it prudent to give tasks to each student within my group. This creates equity and a sense of community and co-operation encourages peer relationships and team problem-solving while students work towards a common goal.  These types of teamwork and critical-thinking skills that are encouraged in a group setting are some of the most important skills that employers look for later in life.  Why not start now?

9. Better Behaviour

One of my great joys is watching kids who ‘play-up’ in the classroom, find their mojo in the outdoors. I know it’s not for everyone but so many connect with the simple life or even better, are intrigued by those things unfamiliar to them. This leads to better behaviour within classrooms. I recently read of studies that found the social adjustment, self-concept, and group cohesion — all potential pitfalls that result in poor classroom behaviour — improved through outdoor education. Even handling misbehaviour becomes easier for teachers when the education is out of the traditional classroom. Louv says, ”I can’t tell you how many times teachers have told me that the troublemaker in their classroom becomes the leader in an outdoor setting.” In fact, that student is often the one who I will give a role of responsibility because they have energy and crave to be challenged.

10. Communication skills enhanced

In Australia, many schools employ outdoor education staff or external organisations to specifically target students’ communication skills, particularly as we move more into a digital environment where face-to-face communication decreases. Outdoor education fulfils this gap by requiring students to work together to solve problems on programs. Students are encouraged to lead discussions, contribute their ideas by making their voices heard, give each other feedback, and resolve conflicts.

Read Part 1 and Part 3 by clicking on the links below.

Part 1

Part 3

Now it’s your chance.

What benefits have you seen from outdoor education?

Leave a comment below.

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From Lima to Loch Sport https://www.debislinger.com/from-lima-to-loch-sport/ https://www.debislinger.com/from-lima-to-loch-sport/#comments Tue, 25 Dec 2018 19:00:48 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5163 As I get older, time goes faster and that became clear on a warm summer day as I explored a stunning part of my home state of Victoria. I reminisced how 12 months ago I was in the bowels of the catacombs in Lima and now in the seaside rural community of Loch Sport. As…

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As I get older, time goes faster and that became clear on a warm summer day as I explored a stunning part of my home state of Victoria. I reminisced how 12 months ago I was in the bowels of the catacombs in Lima and now in the seaside rural community of Loch Sport.

As someone who has travelled across the globe, I know that many of the best places are in fact, on our back door and although these two destinations are thousands of kilometres apart, each is unique for different reasons.

Located approximately 270kms east of Melbourne, the flat and somewhat straight road to Loch Sport from Sale is flanked by tea tree and banksias. At dawn or dusk, the kangaroos, wallabies and even wild hog deer flank the way into town.

Beyond the township at the most easterly point, I journeyed to the heritage listed, Lakes National Park and in particular Point Wilson which is a mere 16kms from the park entrance. This also encompasses Sperm Whale Head Peninsula which I could only appreciate how it was named after viewing an aerial map.

Kangaroo / Wallaby prints at Point Wilson

Traditional owners, the Gunaikurnai people, still have a strong connection with the area as well as other parks and reserves in this region and  jointly manage the Park in conjunction with the State Government.

Tempting views on the road to Point Wilson

Well signposted, the dirt road with few corrugations in early summer, meandered to the Point with glimpses of the lake teasing me along the way. The road is fringed with large coastal and silver banksia, tea-trees, manna gums, peppermint gums, wattle and heath. I’m sure if I’d visited a few months earlier during spring when the wildflowers are at their best, the array of colour would’ve been stunning and may have even spied some of the well-known native orchids.

Rhagodia grows well here

At the head of the point where Lake Victoria and Lake Reeve join is a sweet little picnic site known as Point Wilson Day Visitor Area with the Point Wilson Jetty nearby. Surrounded by salt water, the opportunity to fish and potentially catch bream, flathead, tailor, whiting, perch, eels and much more would be enticing to the most amateur angler. From this vantage point, I could see Paynesville, Raymond Island and the Banksia Peninsula along with expansive views across the entire lakes region. No doubt during busy periods the waterways would be abundant with jet skis, boats and sailing. I took to the water for a swim with an audience of black swans, pelicans, cormorants and seagulls watching me cautiously.

Point Wilson Day Visitor Area

The day shelter is located on the original Banksia Homestead site where in 1903, Frederick and Sarah Barton moved with their family to farm the area with cattle, sheep and goats. Passed down through the generations, eventually, the property was sold to the then National Parks Authority in 1958. The day shelter has two barbeques, fresh water, seating and toilets nearby. Although camping isn’t allowed here, it’s well worth a day visit whether by car, boat or even bike. It’s known that the eastern grey kangaroos like to frequent the grassy lawn but on this day, there were none. However, I saw plenty in other areas of the park including wallabies, an echidna and an emu. Note: please don’t feed the wildlife.

Picnic shelter at Point Wilson

Over time I’ve become something of a ‘twitcher’ finding birdwatching and identifying enjoyable. Here in the park, there are over 190 different species with my first sighting being five yellow-tailed black cockatoos. A nature trail and lookout tower were also helpful to spot a variety of other birds who feed and roost on Lake Reeve. Even in Loch Sport, I would see black swans, cormorants, pelicans, seagulls, eastern spinebills, blue wrens, wattlebirds, magpies, rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas, crimson rosellas, kookaburras, currawongs, ravens and the ever bossy king parrot.

Lookout over Lake Reeve

In summer the peninsula is popular with day visitors and holidaymakers. The Emu Bight campground attracts dedicated campers as facilities are basic. Permits to camp are essential and bookings can be made through the Parks office on 13 1963 or book through this link here. Certainly, the mobile network is limited which is the perfect opportunity for people to disconnect from technology and reconnect with family, friends and nature.

Camping at Emu Bight

There are plenty of walking tracks and although I wandered only a few, they each had something special to offer. There is a 4wd only track and could easily gauge that without a 4wd you’d be in strife quickly. Note: there are seasonal road closures along these tracks from June to November.

Photo credit: Ray and Brenda Wathall Photography Loch Sport

To finish off the day, I drove back to Loch Sport via the surf beach only a few kilometres from the park entrance. Crossing the causeway along a straight stretch of road is the Stockyard Hill carpark.  For more information on this section of the 90-mile beach including tide times and rips click here.

Important Beach Information

Fishing line collection point

Down a typical beach track, the 90-mile beach opened up in front of me, its sheer vastness took my breath away. Apart from myself, there was a lone couple fishing from the shore with the obligatory deck chair and esky nearby. With the potential of catching salmon, gummy shark, flathead, snapper and more, I can see the attraction.

Surf fishing at 90-mile beach

On this clear day, I could spot one of the oil /gas platforms named Seahorse that is around 14kms from the shoreline. Later that night, I came back to see the twinkling lights of other platforms offshore.

90-mile beach feet

Don’t be fooled by the stunning blue water and consistent surf sets. It can be treacherous with plenty of rips and undertows. Note: this is an unpatrolled beach.

Track to 90-mile beach

Later that day, as I watched a few dolphins gambolling on Lake Victoria, I pondered where I would be at the end of 2019. Overseas, interstate or somewhere local. Whether it’s Lisbon or the Little Desert – it doesn’t really matter as long as we keep exploring.

Photo credit: Ray and Brenda Wathall Photography Loch Sport

A special thank you to Ray and Brenda Wathall for their photographs which they generously allowed me to use. Also, a big congratulations to Brenda for being awarded by ViewBug a Top 10 ranked photographer for 2018. Great achievement! Click here to see more of her photos.

Now it’s your turn.

What is your experience of The Lakes National Park and Loch Sport?

Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

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15 Proven Benefits of Outdoor Education – Part 1 https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-1/ https://www.debislinger.com/15-proven-benefits-of-outdoor-education-part-1/#respond Sat, 15 Dec 2018 22:00:03 +0000 http://www.debislinger.com/?p=4238 This is the first part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education and recently a nine-year research project into outdoor education have been released which I’ve posted about here. With classrooms being  ‘classes in rooms’, it can often mean that a young person spends the majority of their day surrounded by four…

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This is the first part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education and recently a nine-year research project into outdoor education have been released which I’ve posted about here.

With classrooms being  ‘classes in rooms’, it can often mean that a young person spends the majority of their day surrounded by four walls, desks, chairs and screens. Time outside of this may be sport, music, dance, drama but apart from sport the rest are indoors, and even sport can be indoors (albeit active). What a young person loses is the time to be outdoors – to smell, to walk, to play, to touch, to climb, to stumble, to jump, to swing, to fall over and get up. In other words, to soak up being outdoors and just ‘being’ in the space and time of the outdoors.

So what are the benefits of outdoor education?

1. Better grades

This is probably the number one sticking point for parents is that their child is spending less time learning and they are just ‘on camp’. Fortunately, science shows that outdoor education, in fact, improves a student’s grades. In fact, the science suggests that students who are regularly involved in outdoor education have marked improvements in the basic skills of reading, writing and math.

2. Increased motivation

After spending time outdoors, science has shown that students’ motivation levels carry over into indoor learning. Being in the outdoors is powerful as it tugs at a young person’s senses. They can focus on detail and describe something far better when outdoors than indoors. However, this also carries over into the classroom after time spent on an outdoor education program.

The physical change of pace and place that happens when outdoors is motivating in itself. Everyone needs variety.

3. Better health and fitness

I’m not talking about health and fitness in the realms of becoming fit young people. I’m talking about the fact that students are up and about. Moving around, walking, exploring – participating in what was traditionally the normal 50 years ago. With this comes a factor in the reduction of childhood obesity. As Author Richard Louv states “the harmful effects on kids of too much indoor overstimulation, including attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression and obesity. As young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically and by allowing them to stay indoors denies them the fundamental part of being a young person.

4. Less stress

The brain produces something called ‘the happy hormone’ also known as serotonin. There are a number of ways of releasing serotonin such as listening to music, receiving praise and hearing the sounds of nature. Being outdoors, triggers the serotonin to be stimulated and up their happy hormone.

5. How can you care about something if you don’t understand it?

Imagine that a mining company wants to dig out your land for coal or a hydroelectricity company wants to dam up the local valley to produce power. If you’ve had a connection with these places, you’ll want to protect them. That’s why you see protesters at rallies. They have a connection with what’s going on, value it and want to protect it. Knowledge is power, so understanding what will happen by educating yourself means you’re more likely to have compassion for what’s going on.

It helps to develop a relationship with the environment. By experiencing the great outdoors, students will learn to respect, appreciate, and enjoy what nature has to offer us. It helps them to see themselves in a global context, developing an awareness of the importance of sustainability of the world’s natural resources.

Our relationship with the environment is a key issue facing tomorrow’s citizens.

Active learning and adventure outdoors introduce young people to the environment in a way which develops understanding appreciation, awe, wonder and respect. It fosters sensitivity to the environment, helps young people to see themselves in a global context and helps to develop citizens with an awareness of the need for sustainable use of the world’s natural resources.

You can read the other parts to this by clicking on the links below.

Part 2

Part 3

Now it’s your chance.

What benefits have you seen from outdoor education?

Leave a comment below.

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Product Review – One Planet Synthetic Sleeping Bag – Sac https://www.debislinger.com/product-review-one-planet-synthetic-sleeping-bag-sac/ https://www.debislinger.com/product-review-one-planet-synthetic-sleeping-bag-sac/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 22:00:44 +0000 https://www.debislinger.com/?p=5330 I’ve been a long time fan of One Planet gear since is was Aiking back in the ’90s. Why? Because they are Australian designed, Australian made and the creator has always been a regular outdoors person so knows what people like me want and need. I’ve said it 100’s of times to 100’s of students, parents and…

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I’ve been a long time fan of One Planet gear since is was Aiking back in the ’90s. Why? Because they are Australian designed, Australian made and the creator has always been a regular outdoors person so knows what people like me want and need.

I’ve said it 100’s of times to 100’s of students, parents and outdoor enthusiasts – your sleeping bag is THE most important item in your kit. I know a pack and footwear are essential but a good sleeping bag will keep you alive, it’ll make your time travelling easier and you’ll have it for at a minimum of 10 years. In my case, one has lasted 30 years and another it’s lasted 23 years as at the time of writing this.

A first generation of the bag – Maria Island, Tasmania

The fill is important and in this bag, you have one choice which is Thermolink. Without going into too much detail, this fill weighs less, packs down smaller but still offers excellent overall coverage.

You can also choose the temperature rating with 3 available.

-1 C

-5 C

-8 C

Although I’m something of a hot bodied person, I still went the  -8 C because it’s easier to just open up the bag if you’re too hot but if you’re cold – you’re cold!

The size of my bag is a regular. I’m 175cm tall (5’9″ in the old language) but for my 190cm tall son (that’s 6’3″ in the old language) he needed a large. This gives him 8cm more in length and but for him, he really needed the extra 15cm across the shoulders which is perfect for him. One of the nice things about One Planet is they have sleeping bag expanders. This is an extra accessory for anyone who is broad across the chest and shoulders but does run the entire length of the bag, tapering at the end. It easily zips into your existing bag giving you a whopping 25cm to wiggle around in. This, of course, comes at an extra charge but well worth the expense for the life of the bag.

The exterior of the bag is made ‘using lightweight and highly breathable 20-denier Vapour Vent fabric’. In other words – stops it getting stuffy inside.

You can choose which side you’d like the zip (some people like it on the left for example) or if you are a couple and want to join your bags you’d get one zip on the left and on the right.

Colour options – well it’s blue/black or black/blue – same thing.

Price – as at the time of the review they start at $179 which is extraordinary value.

Where to purchase – click here to see who stocks One Planet bags.

On the One Planet website, you’ll find heaps more information that’ll answer any of your questions. Click here to read more.

Now it’s your turn.

What is your favourite synthetic bag and why?

Leave a comment below.

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