Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Great Ocean Road

As previously promised numerous times, I now return to travel blogging. I am going to finish up the Australia and New Zealand trip, then finish up the Japan and Korea trip, and then start on the rest of the travel.

The last part of the Australia trip I blogged about was Uluru or Ayers Rock. After our quick trip there, we flew to Melbourne and took a bus trip along the Great Ocean Road.

I had not heard of this till the travel agent mentioned it, but when she said it was a great trip, I decided to go for it. And I have no regrets. It reminds me a little of the drive on Rt. 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Lots of little towns that are mainly there for summer visitors, beaches, and miles of glorious views.

We left Melbourne early in the morning and the first part was pretty forgettable. It was universal suburbia. But then we hit the ocean.

We were lucky to have scored a seat right in the front of the bus, which allowed us to take photos through the windshield. You'll see the windshield wipers in some of the photos.


There is a historical marker at the entrance to the original road that was built by returning war veterans. Of course it is much longer than that now and we went beyond that part.


There is a beach right there and we stopped for a few minutes to see the Great Southern Ocean.



We drove for most of the morning, with few stops. My album is full of photos of a turquoise ocean as the road curves around the shore.

The towns are mostly Victorian in style. We found a little vegan restaurant at the lunch spot. The rest of the bus went for the higher end place that the driver recommended. The upside was that we finished fairly quickly and then went and got some lovely icecream.



The non-ocean side of the drive was farmland, rolling hills, small towns, etc.


We stopped at a few beaches and eventually ended up two sites called the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge. There were never Twelve Apostles there and a couple have fallen over so now there are only seven.

Those are some of the Apostles.




London Bridge or Arch is a natural bridge that fell down a number of years ago. There were some tourists on it when it collapsed but they weren't on the section that fell. They were stranded on the far side.



We also stopped at another scenic spot called Loch Ard Gorge. There is a shipwreck there which has a story all its own. You can read about it in the wikipedia entry.

Looking down on the beach at Loch Ard Gorge. We didn't go down because we didn't want to climb back up!

Some of the towns were built as shelter from the power of the ocean. They have little beaches, a cove, and their own stories. Here's one of those that we stopped at.


And last, but not least, a very dark picture of a wild koala with a joey feeding in her pouch. They are near the center of the picture slightly to the left. This is a patch of forest that we drove through that koalas are known to live in. We were driving very slowly along the road, trying not to hold up traffic when someone spotted the mother and joey. Unfortunately, since we couldn't stop and the forest trees are dark, this is all I was able to get.

We drove back on the inland highway. It was a long and tiring day but well worth it. I am glad I listened to the travel agent and took the trip. Also, it was nice having someone else drive so we could just drink in the view and enjoy the ride. However, it would have also been nice to have a more leisurely visit, stopping for the night at some of the towns along the way.

As the driver said, this is a sampling of the Great Ocean Road!




Fiber news roundup

Somewhere along the way in moving back, I hurt my right shoulder. I have been icing and resting it (remember RICE? Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevataion) and taking an NSAID. But it didn't get better as quickly as it should have (3 weeks and counting) so I went to the doctor and now am getting physical therapy for it. It is healing very well after even two visits, which means that all my TLC did help in keeping it stable vs. getting worse.

Anyway, the reason for the story is that I've been knitting as I can do that while icing and resting it. Spinning wasn't as comfortable. I finished Nymphalidea from Knitty with a bunch of mods. I should have paid attention to the helpful notes in the finished projects before I started but I don't typically read those and I didn't. Part-way through, I realized two things: one, that it was going to be a very l-o-o-n-g shawl if I kept going and two, it was boring. Then I went and looked at the notes to see what mods people had made.

The comments said that the shawl as written is a tough shape to wear and quite a few people had increased the short rows after about 20 wedges to make it more crescent like. I had already knit 30 wedges which is the size of the finished shawl in the pattern. I had more yarn though, so that was part of my plan. I decided to increase the short row sections and then also finish the top and side with an i-cord to make them one long side - another mod someone had made.

I tried following the short row increases as described in the first set of mods but quickly went my own way. I was winging it here as I couldn't really see what the shawl was going to look like on the needles. But I could visualize it.

I liked the way the wider short-row sections brought out the rainbow in the handspun. It is all done but not blocked as my blocking wires are waiting for customs clearance in NY.

Here is a photo of the finished but unblocked shawl.
The purple long section in the middle is what the rainbow looks like with the original short row sections. You can see the difference between that and the second purple section on the left which is made with wider short row sections.

I started another knitting project. I am tired of shawls and thought about knitting a sweater. I have plans for a couple of handspun sweaters but the yarn is also waiting for the customs clearance. So I went with another shawl but with beads I bought at the wholesale notions market in Shanghai. I had the perfect beads for the yarn.
The yarn is spun from a Miss Babs. It is a BFL in a color called Scarlet Ibis, which is not on her site. I bought it at Rhinebeck a few years ago. I spun it worsted on my Tina. It is a 2-ply and quite even. I am making Dragonfly Wings.

Lastly, in the fiber news roundup, I won a spindle bag in the Tour de Fleece in one of my groups. I had deferred getting it till I was back, which also worked for the person donating the prize. She told me I could get any pattern I wanted so I looked around and found this style. It can be sized to fit a water bottle with the top cut off inside. The water bottle provides protection for the spindle. I thought this was a great idea but I wanted to put my smaller Viewtainer inside. That is the 8" one. Nadine made it for me with padding in the case so it can be used for a larger spindle without the Viewtainer.

For some reason, I can't seem to get it to show up properly in line so here's the link to the photos on flckr. I hope it works. I'll test it after I publish. Else I'll have to work something else out. Edited to add: it works!

And that is all for now. I am busy trying to organize the house. I've been cleaning and decluttering the pantry, the kitchen, my closet and some of the other closets. They all needed to be dusted and cleaned so I am organizing and getting rid of stuff at the same time. it is a slow process and will take the entire winter I think to go through the house but it is a good thing to do.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Goodbye Tibet!

When we last left our intrepid (NOT!) travelers, they had just returned from Shigatse and were becoming acclimatized to the altitude. Sadly, the next day was their last! So much for the acclimatization.

The original itinerary had us just hanging out in Lhasa till our flight left. But the flight was at 3-something pm so I felt we could squeeze in some sightseeing. I asked the guide if we could go to Norbulingka, the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama. And while he could not make it as he had been allocated to another group on that day, he found a peer guide who could take us.

Unlike Potala Palace, Norbulingka is flat. It is set in a park and there are multiple palaces where the Dalai Lamas spent their summers. We didn't see all of the park, just some parts and then visited a couple of the palaces. We saw the one that was in use till the current Dalai Lama built a new one. And the new one that he occupied for just a few years till he escaped to India.


The expanses are wide and the park is beautifully landscaped.

The entrance to the Summer Palaces.

This building was for performances that the Dalai Lama and Lhasa citizens could attend. Opera, music, etc.

Looking at the palace building. As with all the buildings, there is no photography inside so all the photos are of the outsides of the buildings and the park. The interiors are more open than the ones in the monasteries and have more light.

Each palace has a meeting room where the Dalai Lama held meetings. These are also shrines because that is where he worshipped. We didn't go through the living rooms of the older palaces - just mostly the audience chamber and shrine. The Dalai Lama was the head of state so these audience rooms would be where he met with foreign dignitaries. The decor is mostly Thanka paintings and cloth hangings along with beautiful images of the Buddha and other deities in Tibetan Buddhism.

The palace of the current Dalai Lama (pictured above) is different. It is built like a modern home with rooms for living, prayer and sleeping, along with the audience hall and other public rooms. The furnishings have been preserved. There are couches, an old radio set with knobs, credenzas and tables with items that were donated by foreign leaders. The Dalai Lama also had cars - some of which were gifts.

Since the Dalai Lama was brought to the monastery as a young child and then was raised by lamas, his family didn't get to see him very much. One of the poignant things we saw was a small room where his mother slept when she visited him.

In the audience hall, there are murals on the wall - as there are in many of the monasteries and palaces. But this one is different. The current Dalai Lama is portrayed in a mural here. It is the only place where you can see a picture of him. He looks young and serious. Tibetans revere him. When we were there, there was an older woman who was genuflecting in front of the mural. She touched our hand and pointed to the mural and made sure we saw it. We couldn't speak to her but we communicated that this was a special place.

I am glad we had the time to see this. It was very different from the Potala Palace and yet had the same spiritual feeling.

Beautiful ponds are part of the park.

Lush landscaping with paths for walking, shaded by trees.

Lupines in bloom in the park.

After this, we still had a few hours so the guide suggested we go to see a carpet factory. Since Tibetan carpets are quite famous, we thought this was a good idea. It wasn't a high priority on our list but I thought it would be nice to see the carpets being woven - being of a fiber-y bent. But, it turned out that the carpet factory was just a showroom. The actual weaving is done outside Lhasa. We looked through the carpets on display and were not in the mood to buy. The prices were also not that great compared to carpet prices in India. But a small carpet caught our attention and we ended up buying it. The showroom quickly folded it up and strapped it and made a little bag for it. We were able to check it in on the flight back so saved on shipping. I was also able to bargain the price down to the cash I had on hand so didn't pay the credit card transaction fee.

And then it was time to head to the airport and fly back to Shanghai. All too soon our adventure ended.

We had a connection at Xi'an on the way back - there are no direct flights from Shanghai to Lhasa. It was amazing to me how much easier it was to walk in Xi'an. I walked off the plane pulling my carryon behind me and had no trouble walking at my usual brisk pace. It really brought home how much the altitude had affected us.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


On Tuesday, when I was cooking, I had to stop and think about where we keep the colanders. For a few minutes I was completely confused. Then it came back. I've had a few moments like that when my mind has been on something else and I am working from habit. It is very strange to be acclimatizing to one's own kitchen!

The other thing I've noticed is time. I work with people all over the world. i am used to Europe being 6 hours after me, not before. So trying to figure out when to schedule a meeting with a colleague in Germany took 3 tries! It didn't help that my calendar still thinks my home is in China though my local time is here. I don't know why it does that.

But it is nice to have fast internet, to not have to worry about turning on VPNs to check personal mail and to actually watch TV without mismatches between the video and the audio - which happens quite frequently in China. You have to change channels and then change back to get it sync'd up again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I still have to put things away but I photographed the loot from the Shanghai meet-up. Jane has also blogged about the weekend in her blog, so you can get additional photos and perspective from her.

First of all yarn....

These are the 2 cones I got at MIC MIC. The left hand side is 100% silk and the right hand grey one is cashmere and something else. Both are 600 gms each - so a lot of yardage.

This is the mink/cashmere blend that I am using in the Nymphalidae shawl. I bought 3 skeins because I didn't want to run out before the handspun did. Extra can be turned into a scarf or cowl or mitts.

Lovely cashmere from one of the Ruijin 2nd street shops. This was a steal as Jane found out. It is priced higher on Taobao and is a lovely fine yarn.

Stuff for spinning art yarns: the top photo contains the 5 cones of glittery fine thread from MIC MIC. All synthetic and I picked ones that weren't too scratchy; the bottom left is the beaded thread that I showed you in the show room; the bottom right is sequins from the bead shop at the wholesale notions market. Each of those is about 1/3 of the bag. Jessica, Dawn and I shared them.

Next up beads! From the top: the 10 bags we split 5 ways, the glass beads I picked up on the street on the second trip to the wholesale market and the non-glass ones - plastic from the weight. I want to make some earrings and necklaces from the bottom ones.

The elastic buttonhole strip. I want to make magic buttonhole placement devices from this. A strip of say, 20 buttonholes, would be one device. Let's say you want 8 buttonholes. You pin the top of the strip to the top of the center front, and stretch the elastic so the 16th buttonhole is at the bottom of the center front. Mark every other buttohole on your front (left or right) and then when you make your button band, you put the 8 buttonholes where the pins are. You want 10? Pin the 20th buttonhole to the bottom and mark every other one. Child's garment? Use every button hole in the elastic instead of every other one. Genius!

This is more jewelry making supplies. The top photo is colored strips of leather on which I can put pendants or intertwine with the bottom chains for a mixed media necklace. My vision is to put a loop of fishing line at the end of each of the chains. We got some jump rings and clasps also. I can take the chains I want and use the loops to put them on the jump rings which will go on the clasp. I can twist them or use them stacked or intertwine some ribbing or the leather ties or....

...use Chinese knotting cord braided or twined in the necklace. Ta da!

The left bag has the findings - clasps and jump rings. But Jane and I also split a 100 (I think) split key rings to make stitch markers. The right side bag is our gift from MIC MIC - locking plastic stitch markers and a tool to fix snags in knits.

These are the buttons I picked up from the street vendor. Each bag was 1 yuan. They are mostly wood with painting on them. A couple are metal with fabric, one is a holey button on which I can wind yarn to match a sweater, one is plastic with knitted sts on it. Each bag has 6 buttons. I got two of a couple of them.

I will never lack for stitch markers again! This is my share of the 1000 markers Jane and I bought together.

DH came with us the second time and got bored while we were shopping for chain and leather strips. He found a shop with tools and I bought these two snips. Jane got a cooler looking one but this one is more comfortable.

I had been eyeing (and trying on) this necklace at the pearl market. I finally caved and bought it. I love looking at it.

Cate of Infinite Twist had some very fine micron merino she had sourced from China and dyed. She had just a little bit and a few of us split up what she had. She calls it sheepmere as it is like cashmere but from sheep.

It is my spinning souvenir from Shanghai. The one and only.

And last, but not least, the gorgeous silk project bag that Dawn brought for each of us. I picked red as it is a traditional Chinese symbol of good luck. Plus, what is not to like about a red silk bag?

On my return, I have come to a very sad conclusion. I am a costume jewelry addict. I cleaned out my jewelry drawer but there is no way I can get all the jewelry I have acquired in the past 2 years in there with what I already had. I used jewelry as a souvenir wherever I went. So I have necklaces from Johannesburg, Australia, Korea, China, as well as what I took from here - from the US and India. Add to this the stuff I make or improvise - from scarves and the chains and leather and ribbon and other stuff.

I have been googling jewelry organizers. The.end.

How do you like the open floodgate of posts! It is so much easier to post when you can link the pictures faster and not have to worry about VPNs to access the blogging platform.

We will be returning to travelogues after this. I may add in a bit of fiber status but will mostly be trying to catch up on the travel diaries while I still remember the details.