Showing posts from 2007

Rubyvale: Lust for Dust

Here in Rubyvale, the lure of the sapphire is real. While the fabled el Dorado may have streets lined with gold, Rubyvale’s dusty pavements are littered with gems.

“Here you go,” says Kym with a cultured tone not often found in the Australian outback. Her finely manicured hands load a fat pile of “wash” into my sieve with a rough, well-used shovel. This where my search for a sapphire begins; with a pile of dirty gravel.

"Back in 1979, Smiley Nelson was walking home from school across the some of the fields mined by the big commercial operators,” says Tony, our guide, “and he kicked up a huge yellow sapphire weighing 2019 carats. It passed through a number of owners in the intervening years and I recently heard that it sold as a 1,400 carat, cut stone in New York for $1.2 million.”

I take the sieve, about the size of a big Frisbee, and plunge it into a 44 gallon drum full of water, jiggling and bouncing it vigorously just below the surface. This action, I’m told, washes off the c…

Why Green is the New Black

Everywhere you turn lately, it seems, people are talking about climate change, global warming, carbon offsets and lower emissions. What’s fact and what’s fluff? Roderick Eime looks at the arguments.

It would appear that even the most resistant critics have bent to the notion that the burning of fossil fuels is at least contributing to the climate change sweeping our planet. The jury is divided on whether it is the primary contributing cause or just part of an overall planet-wide cycle. Either way, pouring carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal and other greenhouse gases like methane and carbon monoxide is not helping matters. Agreed?

Shop Your Way to Carbon Neutrality?

Barney's, the trendiest of New York department stores, has heartily embraced environmental branding. It's a symbol of how chic environmentalism has become and how quickly causes can become trends. Do America's retail-entrenched society and notoriously "faddist" shoppers think they …

I’ll take the high road …

High in the Garhwal Himalayas, Roderick Eime discovers two separate paths to Nirvana

It seems every travel story about India dwells on the unavoidable; the conspicuous, elaborate monuments, the chaotic transport and road systems, the infectious spirituality, the poverty and the overwhelming crush of humanity in a country with five hundred times the population of Australia.

Sure, my recent trip to India had it all, but do you really want to hear about that?

This story is about two destinations offering bliss, relief and enlightenment, yet contrasting in almost every other way imaginable.

Wanting to escape from the claustrophobic bustle and throng of Delhi and its nearby attractions, my wife Sandhya (a Fijian-born Hindu) and I ventured north into the Garhwal Himalayas just over two hundred kilometres from the capital. True, the arduous road journey presented a whole new set of tribulations as we wound up and up toward the distant snow-capped mountains. Rock falls, overloaded trucks and buse…

Palermo, the city of countless conquests and crossroad of cultures.

When the huge Costa Serena jostled for a berth in the busy summertime season in Sicily, it was clear Palermo was not just another big ship whistle stop. Roderick Eime revisits.

I hadn’t been to Palermo for thirty years, and I’m pleased to report that very little has changed. Last time was as a student backpacker, this time it was almost red-carpet as we filed aboard our luxury coaches for a series of shore excursions into this 2800-year-old port.

The ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians were the first to recognize the value of the ideal harbour, with sheltered anchorages and high cliff tops for perfect defences and look-outs. These early traders and merchants operated blissfully there for some six hundred years until the Romans turned up – and they didn’t share very well. The Romans were extremely tough on the Punici and effectively drove them out of existence as well as Sicily.

The Byzantines had a brief turn running Sicily after the Roman Empire went belly up, but were blind-sided by …

Space: The Final Frontier

Published Sunday Telegraph Escape - 9 March 2008 - © Roderick Eime [online]

Let’s Do Launch

“Space: The Final Frontier, … to seek out new life and civilizations …” so said Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise as he surveyed the expanding cosmos. Exploration, discovery and adventure are not the sole domain of science fiction. They have always been defining elements of the human psyche.

The celebrated psychologist, Abraham H. Maslow, called it “self-actualisation”: to boldly go where I’ve not yet been. Once mankind satisfied the lesser, more fundamental requirements such as food, shelter and community we looked beyond the horizon and wondered, “What if …?”

Sure, it took thousands of years for our sluggish and humble species to progress from canoes to steamships, yet much less than one hundred to go from powered flight to space travel. From a traveller’s perspective, now is the most exciting time in our specie’s existence.

And these are exciting times indeed. Such have been the as…

Travel Tech

Travel, adventure and exploration have always been defining elements of the human psyche. It’s what makes us human.

The celebrated psychologist, Abraham H. Maslow, called it “self-actualisation”, but the concept, if not the name, had been known for much longer. Once mankind had satisfied the lesser, more fundamental requirements such as food, shelter and community he looked beyond the horizon and wondered, “What if …?”

The first furtive wanderings of the newly upright hominids were probably as much about the search for food and fresh hunting grounds as any curiosity-driven quest for new territory. But these early forays doubtlessly sowed the seeds for future exploration because, as is now known, homo sapiens populated the entire planet from a single genetic source.

For many thousands of years the preferred, or only known form of transport was by foot. Vast treks over many generations spawned the incredible anthropological diversity that makes our planet unique in the universe. We even…

Lord Howe Island: The Last Paradise

When Bill and Janne Shead first took possession of their new Lord Howe Island property, it was euphemistically called, “zer dump”. Now the Arajilla Retreat is one of only two 5-star properties on the island and a beacon for relaxation and tranquillity.

Lord Howe Island was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982 and is described as “a remarkable example of isolated oceanic islands, born of volcanic activity more than 2000m under the sea, these islands boast a spectacular topography and are home to numerous endemic species, especially birds.” Its fame is growing exponentially as the travelling world seeks out new and unusual locations away from the mass-market crush. The locals, and many others, believe Lord Howe Island to be the last true Pacific Island paradise.

The exclusivity of the location is enforced by remoteness and isolation. The only airstrip, a short sliver of tarmac in the shadow of the two iconic 1000m peaks, Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird, was built by army engineers in 19…

Zimbabwe: A Lion’s Tale

I could just see the young male’s eyes through the long grass as I focused my telephoto lens onto his face. The lion looked relaxed, satisfied and comfortable reclining on the grass barely 20 metres away. Click!

That tiny noise was enough to catch his attention in the silence of the savannah and he quickly turned to look me straight in the eye. My heart rate immediately shot up, but the next event completely took my breathe away. Lokuthula, the 16-month-old, 90kg African lion, stood to attention and begun a full charge with me as the target.

I reeled back in terror as the carnivore bore down on me. I’m a goner for sure. “No, cub!” yelled Paul, my guide, nudging me aside and standing in front of the lunging beast. “Stop!” he ordered, pointing a flimsy stick to the ground in front of the excited cat. Lokuthula, amazingly, came to an abrupt halt, looking imploringly at Paul and wondering why he was spoiling the fun.

Gasps turned to guffaws as the rest of the group realised the danger wa…

Averting Childhood’s End

Photo: Graham Munro
Virtual worlds and cyber communities are no substitute for the wide open spaces. Get out from behind the computer and recall a time before ADSL urges Roderick Eime.

Hands up everyone who remembers when exploring the local creek meant squishy mud between your toes, tadpoles and even yabbies, not broken bottles, abandoned shopping trolleys and forsaken whitegoods.

Sometimes it’s those most simple of pleasures, those “priceless” moments that leave the enduring and lasting memories. What happened to them? Transformed I fear into virtual worlds of social networking and on-line swashbuckling.

Stricken with visions of a childhood disappearing down a broadband connection, I pried my two under-14s from in front of their flat-panel monitors and spirited them two hours away from a corrupted Sydney to Turon Gates. Just out of Lithgow and secreted in a fairytale setting on the namesake river, the 6,000 acres are set among glorious river gums and rolling paddocks stretching all the…

Japan: Before the Rising Sun

“One hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun walked this land, the Ainu lived here.” So says the ancient Yukar Upopo (hero legend) of the ancient Ainu race.

One of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences still possible in this era of instant gratification, synthetic theme parks and virtual existence is to delve into strange and foreign cultures as we travel the Earth. Indigenous cultures and unique dialects are disappearing almost daily despite the growing worldwide respect for these precious anthropological artifacts. Amazon Indians, Australian Aborigines, Melanesian islanders and many Asian ethnic groups are struggling to retain their disintegrating heritage on this globalised planet.

Today, many committed and conscientious travellers urgently seek out these struggling cultures in an attempt to learn and understand a little of our vanishing world before it’s too late. As these modern explorers set off to mix with the famous Masai of Kenya or the serene hill tr…

The On-Line Phenomenon – Pulling Dollars from Cybersapce

Self confessed nethead, Roderick Eime, reminisces on the birth of the ‘net and examines pitfalls its flourishing future.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Internet was derided as an esoteric plaything for geeks, nerds and the socially incompetent. I remember extolling the virtues of email to my friends and clients in the early ‘90s and triumphantly displaying my first web page in 1994. Some immediately saw the possibilities while many others, even the majority I must say, had to be dragged screaming to the computer. Now, over a decade later, it’s hard to imagine life without a tollpass for the Information Superhighway.

We all remember the first “clunky” web pages full of flashing text and naff rotating graphics. Now the art and science of web design is as much about the back-end architecture as it is the slick graphics. Web implementation, search engine optimisation and data streaming is now driven by near incomprehensible protocols like PHP Hypertext Preprocessors, Perl CGI Common Gatew…