the red centre: valley of the winds

This past weekend I took a trip up to the Northern Territory, to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, “the red centre” of Australia.

I left rainy Brisbane and arrived in the NT a short 3 hours later, where there was surprisingly…more rain…..? Apparently only 1% of visitors get to experience rain in Uluru , so i am pretty darned lucky!

Stepping off the plane onto the red dirt, the smell hit me. Petrichor- the smell of earth after rain. It was divine.

As a solo female travelling to the Outback for the first time, i had done a bit of research to prepare, but this was a bare bones adventure. No checked bags, no fancy sweaters- just me, some sunscreen, and a bar of soap.

I knew that I had time to kill before checking into my accommodation in the afternoon, so decided to go for a hike on the longest trail in the park, Valley of the Winds. This is a 7km loop of the Kata Tjuta domes. The trail has a lot of loose rock and gravel, but is absolutely gorgeous and ended up being my favourite hike of the weekend. All up, it took me exactly 3 hours (including hydration and photo stops).

From the airport, its a super simple drive into the park (~15 minutes), and then to the Domes(~30 more mins). A 3 day park pass costs 25 AUD and can be easily purchased at the entrance. Once you’re in the park, there is pretty much only one road which is well-signed, and as long as you’re driving toward the right set of rocks, you’re headed in the right direction!

By the time i got to the trailhead, the sun was hot, so I filled up with 2L of water from the drinking tap and hit the trail!

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The textures, colours, sounds and smells along this trail are absolutely magical. Captivating birdsongs, lightning-fast lizards and buzzing flies- and just about every shade of red imaginable!

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Important to note is that the second part of the trail closes after 11am on days with anticipated high temperature, but this is well signed to walkers. That being said, it’s wise to do outdoor activities in the early morning if possible. I ended up getting a pretty nasty case of heat stroke following this hike, despite my best efforts to keep hydrated!

I got the impression that this trail is a little less popular than some of the tracks around Uluru, probably because its a bit further from the park entrance and main town, and because its a bit longer than other walks offered in the park. That being said, i thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it for a morning walk in the red centre!

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sunrise plogger

Have you heard of plogging? It comes from the Swedish phrase ‘plocka upp’ + jogging

Leave it to Scandinavians to make picking up garbage trendy… but they are on to something!

I have a friend who I met a few years ago in Aus who really changed my perception of food waste, sustainability and how i view the environment. I remember going to a fruit market with her. We were both buying punnets of raspberries, but she had these nifty little produce bags, and instead of taking the plastic tray full of berries, she dunked her berries into her bag and handed the plastic back to the stallholder.

This stuck with me. Especially when i tossed out my plastic tray the next day. Yeah, i recycled it…but with the uncertainty surrounding Australian recycling efforts, there is an opportunity to take more initiative towards minimising waste.

Lots of Aussies are on board with this, and it feels good to be in a country where it is recognised and acknowledged that single use plastic is not the best choice. With plastic bags being banned from major grocery stores in 5 out of 7 Australian states and territories, single-use plastic use is no longer an afterthought for most Australians.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect with single-use plastic. But i do carry a little anti-waste toolkit to help me do my part

This includes:

-Keep Cup

-Spork

-Water bottle

-Straw

-Baggu

Yesterday i was down in Brunswick Heads, and I woke up to watch the sunrise. It was the first day of daylight savings time in NSW (we don’t have daylight savings in QLD) so i accidentally woke up an hour earlier than needed to catch the sun…and decided to use the extra time to grab a cup of coffee at the Bruns Bakery before heading to the beach. It was early, and i forgot my keep cup (ugh!) but i took my lid-less long black, and headed to the beach.

Sunrise was beautiful, and i stayed at the beach for a long time, watching the other dawn-seekers, surfers and listening to the birds as the sky lit up.

I took a long walk down the coast, and realised i had the perfect ‘bin’ for the waste i spotted. Lolly wrappers, beer caps, bottle caps- all into my coffee cup. By the end, my cup was more than half full!

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It feels good to do something for the earth- even something as small as picking up a piece of rubbish, to make life a little happier.

Happy plogging :)

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contemporary mushroom farming for newbies

I try to get to the farmer’s market in west end most weekends. The markets open around 6am, and early arrival is a must for me because I like to dilly-dally through the stalls, admiring fresh veggies and cute dogs.

I’ve gotten into my little routine at the markets, and I really look forward to two stalls in particular: a fruit and veggie stand that always has gorgeous baby kale and fresh flowers (wildflowers, fresh lavender) and…..(drumroll) the mushroom man!

A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick a shitake from a chantarelle, but since going vegan and transitioning into quasi-adulthood, I’ve started paying a lot more attention to what i’m eating and where my food comes from.

Yeah, there are the classics like portobellos and crimini…but I started to notice (and subsequently cook with) some of the funkier varieties on offer at the markets. Oysters, king oysters, enoki were added to my list of faves. The more I tried, the more I wanted to learn about mushrooms..and plus, since mushrooms have their own biological kingdom, Fungi — I knew there were a whole lot more out there. I had to find them.

So this is the part where I checked out a library book on mushrooms. Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation by Tradd Cotter.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the mushroom life cycle, who may have an interest in growing his/her own mushrooms!

I started off with a grow your own oyster mushroom kit, which is a pre-loaded spawn box made by Life Cykel. The medium they use is made up of sawdust and used coffee grounds, and with regular care, the kit offers a crop of oyster mushrooms in about 10 days.

I was hooked. As soon as my first crop of mushrooms were ready, I was adding oil to my frying pan and tossing them in. They were DEE-licious! I had grown my own mushrooms and i didn’t want it to end!

So i decided to put my lab brain to use, and see if i could sub-culture the DIY grow kit mushroom spawn into fresh media (aka my own coffee grounds). Below are the results of my experiment!!!


Day 0-Day 10: Collect coffee grounds/ clean-ish paper scraps into a clean glass jar. After day 2 of adding coffee grounds, i sprinkled in about 2 tablespoons of mushroom spawn from the LifeCykel grow kit***. This was super easy for me because 1) i drink tons of coffee and 2) i use an Aeropress, so getting my coffee grounds into the jar was a piece of pie! After 10 days, I had enough coffee grounds/ paper scraps to fill my jar. I squirted it daily with a spray bottle, kept some cheesecloth fastened with a rubber-band over it, with the lid slightly ajar (mushrooms need airflow so don’t screw the lid on!!) and left it to do its magic!

Day 18: You can see mycilium start to creep up on the right side of the coffee grounds (the fuzzy white stuff is mycilium)

Day 18: You can see mycilium start to creep up on the right side of the coffee grounds (the fuzzy white stuff is mycilium)

***Note: This was the only spawn I added to my mushroom culture- i wanted to see if I could get away with a bare minimum of spawn to create a viable sub-culture. The drawback of using less spawn is that you have to wait much longer for the Mycelium to fully colonise the medium.

Day 23: Mycilium continues to reign!!

Day 23: Mycilium continues to reign!!

Day 30: At this point i wasnt sure if i was growing a slime mould or mushrooms, but decided i’d keep going. And no, it didn’t smell.

Day 30: At this point i wasnt sure if i was growing a slime mould or mushrooms, but decided i’d keep going. And no, it didn’t smell.

Day 41: Starting to look like the pictures in Tradd Cotter’s book. Mycillium has fully colonised.

Day 41: Starting to look like the pictures in Tradd Cotter’s book. Mycillium has fully colonised.

Day 50: Do you see what I see??! Those look like mushrooms to me!!!!!

Day 50: Do you see what I see??! Those look like mushrooms to me!!!!!