Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL

Best of all Lookouts, Springbrook National Park.

“Best of All Lookouts,” located on the rim of a 20 million-year-old volcano, is aptly named. Australia has more beauty than one can visit in a lifetime. Fortunately for my husband and me, our family there was generous about sharing many sights near their home in the Gold Coast.

From New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — to Australia’s Tai Chi in Gold Coast / Birds Part 1 / Birds Part 2 / ate a delicious meal on the beach / saw wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there / enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there! — our vacation was filled with spectacular beauty.

Near Best of All Lookouts is Purling Brook Falls

Purling Brook Falls, Springbrook National Park.

and this memorable tree…

Khashayar takes a break in a tree while Rita and I look on.

with remarkable bark…

Tree bark: nature is the ultimate artist.

And this great dictionary…

Terminology sign, Springbrook National Park.

Along the drive there, we stopped to admire Hinze Dam

To stand in the middle of its road.
And to stop and admire the view.

Further along, we took in views in and around Point Danger, where New South Wales meets Queensland…

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What’s the most unique sight near your city?

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon (nor places we’d visit later like Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens) were like any of them. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

And — New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Huntington Library, Art, and Gardens by da-AL

da-AL at The Huntington, sitting on a bench in rose garden

What better way is there to celebrate a special occasion than with an all-day excursion of gorgeous weather, strolling an array of gardens that span rainforest to desert and Japanese to Australian to more, seeing the worlds’s stinkiest (and amusingly phallic) plant, eating international fare, admiring fine art museums, and ending it all with a high tea?

My honey and I spent our special day at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (a collections-based educational and research institution) located in San Marino, California. Tap photos for captions…

da-AL and her honey having high tea at The Huntington

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special day?

Food and Seaside Dogs of San Sebastián, Spain by da-AL

Ever been around so much scrumptiousness that only way to enjoy it all without exploding was to have little tastes and do a lot of sightseeing? San Sebastián, Spain, is known for pintxos (Northern Spain’s version of tapas), which small delicious plates, and plenty to see. Our incredible vacation kicked off with beautiful Barcelona, then we visited wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, enchanting Espelette, phenomenal French Basque Country. Dedicated readers of this Happiness Between Tails know that my upcoming novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” due in part to my love of Spain!

Now we were in San Sebastián, which turns out to be a great place for dogs too! We fortified our energy with pintxos for breakfast…

Pintxos for breakfast!
Pintxos for breakfast!

A big day was ahead — San Sebastián is known for the best churros and pudding-think hot chocolate, so why not?…

empty mug and plate of churros and hot chocolates
Sorry, all gone! Yum! San Sebastián is known for the best hot chocolate and churros in Spain.

We hiked to Mota Castle at the top of Monte Urgull…

Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Where there were great views of the city and Bahía de la Concha…

View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Back down in Parte Vieja, Old Town, we decided to walk to the steeple at the very end…

Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Along the way, we tasted the best cheesecake ever, made with ricotta cheese…

Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!
Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!

We met many dogs…

Dog at the bakery
Along the way we saw dogs at the bakery.
steeple in the distance
We’re getting closer!
A dog under a chair.
And dogs under chairs.

Even at the beach!…

La Concha Beach
Dogs at La Concha Beach.

 

black dog
My dogs would love it here.
black and white dog
Does everyone in San Sebastián own a dog?
A fluffy dog
Yet another dog.
It's getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
It’s getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
dogs and street performers at the park
Dogs and street performers at the park.

The long walk was worth it!…

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
It was worth the long walk to see this!

Even Itzi Orbegozo, the kind hostess of our Airbnb, had a lovely dog, Kanika!

Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog
Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog.

We were off to breathtaking Bilbao

Guest Blog Post: “Nature Cure by Richard Mabey: Overcoming depression through a love of nature,” a book review in Denzil Walton’s exact words

"Nature Cure," by Richard MabeyThe healing properties and potential of nature have always been known, but are finding a “comeback” these days, with hip terms like forest bathing now being recommended from psychiatrists’ couches. The book “Nature Cure” presents a personal re-discovery of the benefits of nature.

Richard Mabey is one of the UK’s finest nature writers. The first of his 32 books was Food for Free (1972), and his latest is The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination (2016).

Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2002, Mabey suffered a severe depression. We find him at the start of the book in bed, blankly gazing at the wall. But encouraged by friends and realizing the need for a change of air, he uproots himself from the family house in the Chilterns where he and his sister have lived for 110 years between them, and heads off to East Anglia to live in a room in a farmhouse. His room is “like a small forest” with “more oak inside it than out.” And here he strings up a series of low-energy lamps and makes his nest, amazingly not with a computer but two manual typewriters.

Throughout, Mabey describes his breakdown and steady recovery with his characteristic laid-back style, like your favourite uncle relating exploits from a distant past. We get a glimpse of what may have caused his freefall into depression when he describes what it takes to be a full-time writer: “doggedness to be alone in a room for a very long time.”

His honesty is admirable. Owning up to depression is never easy, even these days, perhaps especially for a successful writer at the pinnacle of his career (he had just completed the epic and lauded Flora Britannica). Even more difficult was when depression robbed him of his desire to write: “it made me lose that reflex, it was like losing the instinct to put one foot in front of the other.” But obviously Mabey regained that reflex, and how he did is very touching – and through writing he began to unlock “pieces of me that had been dormant for years.”

His style is warmly conversational, making the book easy and pleasurable to read, despite the subject matter. He gently leads you from subject to subject, so that you forget where the conversation started. One moment he is describing wild horses on Redgrove Fen, and his musings about their origins leads to cave paintings in France and then to local Stone Age flint mines in Norfolk, and somehow to Virginia Woolf and moats. Is this what he refers to later as “free-range reading?”

Nature Cure is definitely a recommended read, for anyone interested in good writing about nature, and the cure he describes might well be of benefit to others suffering from depression too.

Denzil Walton writes two blogs: Discovering Belgium and Life Sentences.

Costa Rica: Jungle Hiking, Indigenous Abodes, and Rafting the Pacuare River by da-AL

A popular medical tourism destination, Costa Ricans live longer than Northern Americans. How? Thanks to their socialized medicine system, strict anti-smoking laws, overall healthy focus, and low sugar consumption in.

Hover or click images for more info and to enlarge.

Learn more about Costa Rica here and here.