Taronga zoo in Sydney is great. You can go there on a ferry, ride a cable car and it has great views over the city, not to mention lots of cool animals to see. I wrote about it here.

They have a sister zoo, Dubbo Western Plains. It’s 5-6 hours drive west of Sydney, past the Blue mountains, on the edge of the outback. We headed out there one weekend in June, setting off on Friday after work, and stayed in a cabin In a caravan park. As it’s winter and inland it gets to low single digits at night, so camping wasn’t on my agenda! On the drive out we hit 1 degree, and it was 3 degrees in Dubbo by the time we got there.

You can stay in the zoo itself, which includes some additional animal tours. It’s very expensive though, so it decided it was better to save money for another stuffed animal for my collection! We stayed in a cabin in Dubbo, which was 70’s retro and

I love animals, so needless to say I enjoyed the zoo. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast there looking at the lemurs on an island in the lake.

had a massive fan heater bolted to the wall. It did heat the place up nicely, until you turned it off!

The zoo is really more like a safari park. The main route around is 6km, and you can hire bikes to cycle it, or a golf cart! Needless to say we went for the active bike option. I managed to cycle around without any accidents, just one near miss with a kid running at me on a narrow path whilst looking behind him. I shouted at him! You only ever ride for a little while, then stop and go and see the animals. Its the same if you drive – rather than being like Longleat you need to park and get out to see the animals. The ticket is valid for two days, so you can go back the next day if you’re really keen.

By fluke we managed to time our route around to see feeding time with the hippo (called Happy), elephant (called Cuddles) and the Siamang apes. They were all very cool, and the apes were really noisy – it sounded like they were signing a song and were great to watch. Near the end it started to rain, but we managed not to get too wet. Here’s a load of pictures of cute things!

DubboMeerkats

DubboHippo2

DubboHippo

DubboElephant

DubboSiamangs

DobboRhino

DubboTiger

DubboKoala

 

 

Gangsters

Gangsters

Tucked away behind Circular Quay is the Justice and Police museum, based on the old police building and courthouse.

Entry is only $10, and recently they had a special exhibit called City of Shadows, based on thousands of old police photos from the 1920s which were recently found in a warehouse

The museum is small, but really interesting, especially the special exhibition. There were three section with photos, one about historic Sydney, one of crime scenes and one of criminals. The photos have been made into a film with voice-over which you watch as you first go in. The crime scene pictures were quite harrowing. I watch a lot of crime and detective dramas on TV, but knowing its real is pretty different. A lot of the pictures had blood and violent scenes, and quite a few had actual bodies in. There probably should have been a warning about it for the children!

Grizzly crime scene

Grizzly crime scene

The pictures of the criminals were all done as portraits, rather than just standard mug shots. They don’t know the story, but it seemed like the photographer asked them to pose how they wanted, so a lot of ganger character came through in the shots. They were really interesting to look at, and some of them had accompanying stories about their crimes.

Lady gangster

Lady gangster

In other parts of the museum you could sit in the judges chair, go into the cells (which were pretty small with nothing in, and used to hold 12 people), and see the old reception room complete with original furniture. One room was full of weapons ( including guns, axes, swords, daggers, maces and other grizzly implements). Some of them had actually been used to murder people.

Its not really on the list of major tourist attractions in the city, but it was definitely worth a visit. And there was this…. 🙂

Police Dog riding a mini car!

Police Dog riding a mini car!

 

12. July 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Reviews
Roomba eating a cable

Roomba eating a cable

In the UK we had a Henry Hoover, and he was great. We used to feed him a lot of plaster and bricks from our walls, and tiles from our kitchen floor – but he never complained!

We left Henry in the UK though, so bought a dodgy Volta hoover when we got here for $95. It was rubbish and stopped working altogether after about 8 months. We tired a new filter which worked for about another month before it became totally useless again. Now Matt loves gadgets, and we had a few discussions about the replacement hoover. Over a few months he gradually wore me down about getting a robot hoover. After a lot of cynicism I eventually gave in, and we purchased a Roomba 780 (the newest one).

Here’s some features: 

  • Roomba uses ‘lighthouses’ for navigation. These basically divide the flat into 3 zones so he (yes, he’s a boy) finishes one before doing the second and then the third. This makes him more efficient and also helps him find his way home to his dock at the end.
  • You can program him to automatically clean at particular times and days, so he can work away while you’re out. You can also just turn him on when you want
  • He has a spot clean mode so if you make a big mess by dropping something he will circle around and sort it out without needing to clean the whole flat
  • He has a load of different behaviours to help him navigate over cables, round furniture, along walls and get in and out of tricky spots. He also detects ‘cliffs’ so he wont drop off things. We don’t have any so haven’t tested this and aren’t brave enough to put him on the worktop!

So how do I rate him?

Well, there were some teething problems. At first he didn’t get around very much of the flat at all before giving up becasue he was full. In fairness, we hadn’t hoovered properly for a while because the last hoover died and he took a while to be delivered. He also managed to get stuck under the TV stand on a cable.

Overall it is good not having to hoover so much, and I do appreciate that. It certainly appeals to my lazy side. Roomba is quite good at going over cables and wires without getting stuck, although if they are lose he can pull them out and eat them. That means he then jams, stops cleaning and goes to sleep!

Some of the other issues with Roomba, include:

  • He doesn’t clean behind doors, or under Matt’s floor-drobe as he’s not cleaver enough to move things. We have a dust buster for doing the bits he cant reach.
  • He does sometimes miss bits, but on the flip side he does pick up a lot of dirt you cant even see (I think he just eats the carpet personally)
  • He’s a bit noisier than I expected
  • I’m not sure its very efficient, as  he takes a long time to do the flat, but apparently its low power
  • The main problem is his bin is very small, and often gets full before he finishes the flat, eve though its not that big (see earlier comment re eating carpets). This means he doesn’t often do the bedroom and ensuite properly. You can buy a bigger bin attachment which we will probably do.

So in summary – its good if you don’t want to hoover so much, but not totally perfect!

 

Geocaching

Geocaching

 

Matt and I have always liked going for walks. To make them more interesting, a few years ago we took up the hobby of geocaching. This combines walking with some technology, and the excitement of a treasure hunt. There are over 2.4 million around the world! We have almost hit 500 now.

The simplest caches give you co-ordinates, where you go along and find the cache, which might be a tuppaware box, old school film canister, a tricky to find mini-container or something that cunningly looks like a rock or branch. We have found ones before that are an owl, a frog, a bat, a rat and a chameleon! Inside is a notebook where you write your name to prove that you found it. The caches also have toys and little things inside them. The etiquette is you can take something if you put something back. It’s mainly small plastic toys, rubbers, stickers and kids stuff, so it appeals to kids.

There are clues you can look at if you get stuck and can’t find it. Normally you can make a walk to combine several caches, and some are even designed as a series along a circular walk. Once you get into it you can make and place your own too, as long as you register them officially and follow a few simple rules – like not putting it too close to another one or on private property.

Some caches are harder, where you have to solve a puzzle or series of clues to work out where it is actually hidden. And some have a hard ‘terrain’ rating. They go from 1 to 5. We have done a few number 5s which were very cool, one where Matt had to abseil down a cliff and another one where we kayaked to the middle of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

Another dimension of geocaching is ‘Travel Bugs’.  These are objects which you put a special registered tag on, and put them in a geocache. Other people take them, log them and move them to another geocache. You can set them objectives like wanting to go to lakes, or get to the other side of the world or reach a specific destination. We registered one which is a blue plastic duck and can track him online (his number is 79Z2HD). He’s been a massive 31,382.4 km since November 2010, hitting 164 places and is currently in Holland. We’re going to make another one soon, and have a go at placing our first actual geocache too.

You can geocache with just a pen and a GPS enabled mobile phone, but a GPS is good if you want some more accuracy, especially if you’re going into woods where the phones don’t always have good signal.

You can read more about it on the official website, here, and register an account.

Why not give it a try?

Batty cache

Batty cache

02. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Video · Tags:

Here’s the second part of our new flat tour, this one with the main exciting features!