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Author: curiouslass

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Blue Lake and Sinkholes in Mt. Gambier

Blue Lake and Sinkholes in Mt. Gambier

It’s been a while since the last time I posted something here. This time I want write about Mt. Gambier. Some would call it a city, but I prefer a town because it feels like a town to me.

Located next to the border of South Australia and Victoria in Australia, Mt. Gambier is the first town in South Australia named by European explorer in 18th century and has a unique and amazing landscape, thanks to its geological features. Mt. Gambier, practically, is a town sitting on a string of caverns created by after the eruption of a volcano (Mount Gambier), one of the youngest volcanoes in Australia. Pre-history noted how the town and its surrounding area were formed after volcanic eruptions created four crater lakes on the limestone terrain. Over the years, only two lakes survived of drying up, Blue Lake and Valley Lake. Water erosion on mineral-rich land created caverns. Later on, some roofs of these caverns collapsed and formed sinkholes.

Mt. Gambier
Mt. Gambier

Unlike Melbourne or Adelaide, two big cities in the south region of Australia, Mt. Gambier is not a popular destination among foreigners coming to Australia. It is off-the-track destination. Most visitors coming to this town is locals. Thus, it is easy to live like local during your stay in town.

How to get there

Mt. Gambier can be reached by plane, train or bus from Adelaide or Melbourne. The best way, however, is by driving from Melbourne to Adelaide along the south coast of Australia. This way, you can stop at many interesting towns and places along the famous and historic the Great Ocean Road such as Torquay (the birthplace of Rip Curl and Quicksilver), Angelsea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Port Cambell (highly recommend to stop here for the Twelve Apostles), Warnambool, Port Fairy and Portland.

My friend and I went there by train-connected-bus from Melbourne for a short stay during semester break because I was really curious about Blue Lake and the town. And it did not disappoint me at all. After taking early morning train bound to Ballarat, we changed to interstate bus that was waiting in the parking lot of Ballarat station. The bus took us for almost 4 hours to Mt. Gambier with some stops at small towns like Streatham, Dunkeld, Hamilton, Coleraine, and Casterton. It arrived few minutes before 2 pm in the parking lot next to Mt. Gambier Visitor Center.

Mt. Gambier Visitor Information Center
Mt. Gambier Visitor Information Center

Mt. Gambier was rainy when we arrived, with a storm was predicted hitting the south coast of Australia that night. But we were too excited to care about that. After a quick visit to bathroom available in the Center and talk with pleasant ladies in there, we walked about two blocks to our accommodation, Mt. Gambier Central Caravan Park.

Best Things about Mt. Gambier

Since we were living as students, free attractions were very appealing to us especially if it is outdoors (meaning nature-made and beautiful architectures). And guess what? It is the best thing about Mt. Gambier. Major attractions like the famous Blue Lake, the sinkholes and the cave gardens, light show, and beautiful old buildings are FREE!!

It gets better because all of it is located close to each other, you can just walk or ride a bike to get there. Even the bike is free to borrow. You only need to come to visitor center at The Lady Nelson Discovery Centre and talk to friendly staffs there. The visitor center is easy to locate, just look for a big ship, replica of HMS Lady Nelson Ship, that park in front of a building. So, here are some free attractions in Mt. Gambier.

1. Blue Lake

True icon of Mt. Gambier.

The stunning Blue Lake is a crater lake located just few kilometers from downtown. What makes Blue Lake unique is it changes color regularly from vibrant cobalt blue during summer to steel grey on the other seasons. I was there in late April and the lake was steel grey with green pine trees surrounding it.

Blue Lake in Autumn
Blue Lake in Autumn

There is a 3.6 km walking trail that directs visitors to spots for best views of this 75m deep lake. To get there, you only need to walk up the hill in the south of the city and follow the signs. On the way up there, you also can see the old Pioneer Park Cemetery dated back to the 1850s.

2. Cave Garden and Light Show

A mystical cave garden right in downtown.

This beautiful Cave Garden is located downtown next to The Main Corner and Riddoch Art Gallery. At day, you will see the lush plants cover almost all the surface of this sinkhole. There is a tiny waterfall that functions as excess drain of storm water and is quite an awesome sight after rain when water rush into the sinkhole. There are steps leading to the viewing platform if you want to get a stunning view of the sinkhole but it could also be viewed from the rim of the cave garden.

Cave Garden at Night
Cave Garden at Night

At night, the cave garden turns into a stage for light and sound show. The garden is illuminated by colorful laser lighting coming from the cave, and old images of Aboriginal people tells story about Aboriginal Dream of the Cave Garden. The dark sinkhole combines with sound of water rushing into it, colorful lights and the shadowlike image from the show create a mystical and eerie atmosphere.

3. Umpherston Sinkhole

A magnificent sinkhole-turned-garden that come with possums.

The Umpherston Sinkhole is located just 5 minutes drives from Cave Garden to the east. It was formed when the roof fell to the floor of the cave. The inspiring James Umpherston then started planting ferns, bushes, and trees on the floor of this sinkhole to create a Victorian garden. In later restoration after his death, the garden was landscaped beautifully by adding lawned terrace covered by ferns, various leafy bushes, colorful hydrangeas, and draped vines that cover the tall wall of the sinkhole. All of this turns into a breathtaking view in summer when all those colors are mixed together.

Garden in the Umpherston Sinkhole
Garden in the Umpherston Sinkhole

After you see the size and the depth of Umpherston Sinkhole from the platform on top of the sinkhole, follow the steps leading to the floor of the cave to get close-up view of the garden and plants, walk along the terrace and behind the draped vines. Sometimes at dusk, you will also see not-so-shy-colony of possum showing up to greet visitors and hoping to be fed fresh fruit.

4. The Main Corner and Riddoch Art Gallery

Both places are free or charge too!

Located in the very center of Mt. Gambier town, it is not hard to find both buildings which stood next to each other. Riddoch Art Gallery, the largest and oldest regional gallery in South Australia, exhibits artwork collections from major cultural institutions in Australia.

Main Corner and Riddoch Gallery
Main Corner and Riddoch Gallery

In The Main Corner, you can watch big screen cinema telling the story of the region’s geological history of volcanoes, underground caves, and crater lakes. I will suggest you watch this cinema first before exploring Mt. Gambier region. This way, you will have ideas about how magnificent were nature power in creating this beautiful town. I came to see the cinema few hours before driving back home and regret it because I just realize how many things I could see if I came to see it first.

Mt. Gambier is also the birthplace of the famous Haigh’s Chocolates and there is a mini outlet of it in The Main Corner right where it all began a century ago.

5. Strolling around the Old Town

Mt. Gambier has many old and historic buildings. Strolling along main streets is one of my favorite things to do in this town, especially at night. This small town is quite faster deserted at night, leaving empty streets and illuminated old buildings like Jens Hotel, Mt. Gambier Hotel, Riddoch Art Gallery, Old Mt. Gambier Gaol and many others just for you to enjoy.

Jens Hotel
Jens Hotel
Exploring the deserted town

With many things to do in Mt. Gambier, your stay will definitely not be a bored one. So, next time you plan on driving between Melbourne and Adelaide, why not swing by Mt. Gambier and enjoy it for free!

Beautiful Indonesia

Beautiful Indonesia

I was looking down from a hill in Central Java when I saw this man running up to a point below with flag tying to his tripod and started waving the flag. The field and another hill on the background and the man with his flag, the combination is just beautiful. This is Indonesia.

dieng

Syrian Civil War: Call It as It Is

Syrian Civil War: Call It as It Is

The current civil war in Syria has caused so many debates about many things. We are currently bombarded by videos and news about how hopeless civilian in Aleppo being shelled by Assed & friends (Iran & Russia).

In moslem majority countries like mine, the most heated discussion related to Syria civil war is about Sunni – Shia power struggle, not only regionally but also globally.

Some would dismiss it as the sentiment of majority that turns bind eyes over motives of geopolitical domination and pursuit of economic benefits between Iran vs KSA & Turkey and US vs Russia. As a result, many has called for stopping sharing news about Aleppo that could fire more religious divisiveness in domestic society. In some discussions, I was even branded as a religious intolerance just because I do believe there is element of sectarian competition (including politics and religion differences) in Syrian civil war. Well, I tolerate the accusation when it comes from people who only got interested on the issue recently when Aleppo is besieged. Obviously, they have no idea about what’s going on that lead to the current condition. But when it comes from people who is educated enough about how international relations works or from people that have access to credible sources, I became suspicious of hidden agenda in one hand and pity them on the other hand.

I agree that Syrian civil war is a proxy war between Iran vs KSA & Turkey. Geopolitically, both sides are always in competition over domination of highly strategic region (in term of energy resources and geographical position). Interestingly, both side also represent two major sects in Islam, Sunni represented by KSA & Turkey and Shia by Iran.

For long time, the region has been dominated by Sunni rulers, including the House of Hashemite (since 1900s) whose territory included Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and KSA. After the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Empire in 1916, Jordan and KSA became independent states rules by Hashemite dynasty until now, the oldest in Islamic world and the second oldest dynasty in the world.

In 1980s, King Fahd of KSA assumed the title of the Custodian of Two Holiest. It had been used by previous rulers of Mecca and Medina, first one was by Saladin of Ayyubid dynasty of Kurdish origin, Mamluk dynasty of Egypt and Ottoman dynasty of Turks.

Religiously, the title puts huge responsibility to the title holder to guard the two holiest cities in Islamic world. Politically, the title granted position of the leader of Islamic world to the regime that holding it.

This is where religion and politics collides.

Iran, previously Persian Kingdom, has a long history dated back to the ancient Median Empire in 600s BC. Persian first interaction with Islam was when Prophet Muhammad sent a letter to Sasanian rulers about Islam and was peacefully accepted. Since then, Islamic teaching flourished in the Persian Kingdom as were taught in its origin place of Mecca and Medina. The turning point was during the Safavid dynasty which established the Twelver school of Shia Islam as official religion of the kingdom in 7th century.

During World War 1, when Ottoman Empire was against British and France in Middle Eastern theater of WW 1, Iran under Qajat dynasty had to choose to side with its neighbor to held back the invasion of Allies forces to the resources-rich region and halting the disintegration of their empires. Both empires even plunged together in what later called Ottoman’s Jihad. But there was no consensus among Shia ‘ulama based in Najaf and Karbala about Iran’s involvement in Ottoman’s Jihad which some considered Sunni Ottoman as no better than infidels that were invaded their country (http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/persiairan). This is when religious differences started to show its divisiveness.

The disagreement between Qajar dynasty and ‘ulama sharpened especially after Iran suffered by the defeat of Central forces and the disintegration of Ottoman Empire. Disagreement also weakened Qajar dynasty, later was taken over by Pahlevi dynasty, and consolidated power on the ‘ulama who had more political knowledge of Shia jurisprudence.

Later on, when many states emerged from the collapse of Ottoman Empire, Iran under Pahlevi dynasty enjoyed close relationship with European countries and imposed secular system that was denounced by Shia ‘ulama. Pahlevi dynasty was toppled by Iranian Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

After that, everything moved fast. KSA thrived as the world largest oil reserves, became an influential state among moslem majority countries globally and enjoyed special position as the closest ally of the US. On the other hand, Iran was embargoed and was isolated from global interaction.

The Ayatollah in Tehran denounces KSA close relationship with the US and challenges the title of Custodian of Two Holiest Mosques held by KSA King, especially after KSA permitted the US to use its base to attack Iraq during Iraq– Kuwait war.

After Sadam was toppled in 2003, the new pursuit of supremacy was on. Right before US invasion of Iraq in 2003, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned the dangerous of toppling Saddam Hussein of Iraq. He introduced the term “Shia Crescent” refers to the expansion of Iran’s influence by exporting and exploiting Shia identity especially in the highly sectarian states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Bahrain (http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21647367-shia-militias-are-proliferating-middle-east-shia-crescendo). The invasion went on and the world witnesses how ugly the picture of liberation brought by Liberal Democracy champions.

shia-crescent

After Iraq War, Arab Spring happened, mostly driven by social and economy discontent thought some political motives was in the background too. Different country, different story of the Spring. Syria is one of a country that has all the motives mentioned above. It was started by demonstration against violent treatment of teenager who painted revolutionary slogan. Assad’s security forces opened fire on demonstrators, leading more to the street to demand his resignation.

What started as another Arab Spring against autocratic rulers has burgeoned into a brutal proxy war. The conflict gets hold of sectarian overtone when regional powers involved, putting the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s minority Shia Alawite sect. As a president from minority sect, Assad regime has been supported by Tehran, Russia and Hizbollah for long time. Sunni-dominated opposition attracted support from international backers including KSA, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, US, UK and France.

Though on the surface it looks like a genuine geopolitics power struggle, religious motives cannot be dismissed here. Supremacy over the region not only provides political and economy benefits but also grants de facto leadership over moslem society in the world. It is also the best way to spread the winner’s belief across the globe and subdue the other’s, just like the Cold War winner did.

Thus, dismissing religious factor in Syrian civil war is ignorance not to mention clueless and pitiful acts.

Worst are, calling for not sharing news about what is happening in Syria just because fearing it could fuel religious discord in domestic. Because by doing that, we are closing the only door civilians in Syria could use to get notices from international community. Yes, the only door they could use because international system is not brave enough to stand up against state-sponsored massacre held by Assad regime (with help from Russia and Iran) over his own people.

So, if calling things as it is ended with me being labeled as intolerance or worse, then I do not really care.

Cappadocia & Fairy Chimneys

Cappadocia & Fairy Chimneys

Cappadocia is a barren but amazing place. Located in the central Anatolia of Turkey, it offers plenty outdoors activities that allows you to see fairy chimneys from up in the air, go inside it or dive into underground cities. My favorites are riding hot balloon, sleeping in a cave hotel and going into some 85m deep underground cities. What’s yours?

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Sunset over Cappadocia

 

 

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmed Camii) is one of many landmarks located in Sultan Ahmed area of Istanbul, Turkey. The name came from its beautiful interior blue tiles, which was used more than 20.00 pieces to cover the whole wall. Though it is opened for tourist, it is still an active mosque where people do prayer 5 times a day.  The picture was taken at dusk when seagulls fly close to the mosque’s central dome and minarets.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

 

 

Sunda Kelapa Harbour

Sunda Kelapa Harbour

Sunda Kelapa Harbour has been there since 12th century. Being a major port in spices trade route, it saw many ships come and go from all over the world. The Harbour witnessed the changing name of its city from Sunda Kelapa to Jayakarta, Batavia and finally to Jakarta. Located in the north Jakarta, Sunda Kelapa Harbour is the capital’s beloved icon.

About Me

About Me


Hi, my name is Intan, in English it means diamond. It suits me though, since I am as stubborn as the stone can be (peeps told me so).

I was born and raised in rural area of Sumatera island in Indonesia. I used to play hide and seek in the wood or in paddy fields, or jump into the lake (just few meters from my house) to see who gets the best jumping. I am used to earthquake, small and big ones. Well, you’ll get used to it if you live in area of active volcanoes along the Sumatera island.

Though I love living in small village, it doesn’t come with university or internet. So I moved to cities to get my degree and job. And here I am, living in the capital for 9-5 job at day and writing whatever comes to my mind (mostly about politics and travelling) at night.

With 9-5 office job, travelling is a luxury for me. But when the windows come, I always make the most of it. I am fascinated with nature, history, architecture, locals and their traditions. My current project is to explore my own country, which is kind of pathetic of me to only want to do it now.