Tag Archives: Hiking

Review of Surfacing, 2015

SurfacingAuthor’s Blurb

Isobel’s life has changed. All but destroyed one sunshiny day; just like that, when she wasn’t looking. She needs to wake up and realise that unless she starts swimming, the waters might close completely over her head.

Review by Hazel Barker

Surfacing is the third and last of the Distance series, and is by far, the best of the three books, where the protagonist, Isobel, grows from a weak, whinging woman to a strong leading character.

The author makes good use of metaphors and similes, making the book a pleasure to read. She also draws the reader deep into Isobel’s mind, and deeply entwines characters and setting. The story opens with a hook, but slows down in the next few chapters. The pace quickens about half-way, until reaching a satisfactory climax.

I recommend Surfacing even if you haven’t read the two prequels, although you will enjoy the contents much more if you start with the previous two books in the Distance series.

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Christmas 2015 Cradlecap National Park NSW

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Christmas 2014, O’Reillys

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Table Top Mountain, Toowoomba.

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Photos taken during our walks in National Parks.
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O’Reilly’s at Green Mts National Park

Colin

Colin

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Bushwalking in Queensland

Springbrook National Park

Springbrook National Park

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The Spirit of O’Reillys by Peter O’Reilly

Publisher: Endless Summer Publishing

Review by Hazel Barker
The Spirit of O’Reillys is a history of the guest house and also a family history, as both are interwoven. Written in a colloquial style, it can best be appreciated around a campfire, listening to the author as he pushes back his akubra and reveals his hair, now bleached by the sun and the passing of time.
Peter takes us from the family’s pioneering days on the McPherson Range in 1911 through to contemporary times. Eight O’Reilly boys establish a dynasty in the rainforest-covered ridges. They clear the land, build roads, construct bark huts, plant grass seeds for dairy cattle and lay the foundations for the Guest House.
The boys contend with financial hardships and the prospect of their land being requisitioned by the newly-established National Park. The situation improves when the author’s uncle, Bernard O’Reilly, finds the crashed Stinton, and his book, Green Mountains, is published. Both events bring fame, and firmly establish the O’Reilly Guest House.
The Spirit of O’Reillys is a sequel to Green Mountains. Peter’s description of the Stinson episode makes me feel I’m there in that summer of 1937. The campfire nights and mountain-walks bring to mind my campfire nights in the Snowy Mountains during the early years of my marriage.
The book is peppered with anecdotes like the Old Blitz, the Ford V8 that ‘could be cranky at times’ and ‘had no doors so it was easy to bale out.’ Then the author, ‘lost a finger in the mincing machine,’ and it ‘made the guests wary the next time there was mince on the menu.’
Many more interesting tales dot the pages of Peter’s book – a bower bird and the blue car, the stinging tree, and the blue cray in the blocked pipe. But best of all, the escaped murderers who serve as cooks.
The writer’s second son, Danny, is born with a disability. The author’s wife, Karma, establishes an association for handicapped children, and receives the Citizen of the Year Award in 1982, for her work within the organisation.
When lapsing into the conditional past tense, frequent use of the word, ‘would,’ tends to wear one down, but I urge the reader to read on, because the book gathers speed as it progresses, when the author drops into a pleasing narrative style.
Anyone who enjoys hiking will relate to the story of the O’Reilly’s. The Spirit of O’Reillys is essential reading for lovers of history and visitors of the Guest House. I have no doubt it will be treasured by family members, and be preserved within our national archives.
The Spirit of O’Reillys ends in a true Irish vein, with the author’s blessing.

Published in QWC Magazine 2009

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Bushwalking

Bushwalking

<I could not keep away long from the land of my birth. I thought of the beauty of England, of the winding roads and hedgerows with its lovely green fields and returned two years later in 2000. We combined a visit to England with a tour of Italy and Ireland, visiting Dublin and the shrine at Knock.
Hazel was enchanted with the green planes, green buses and green letter boxes. She kept looking around in the hope of seeing a leprechaun but it evaded her. It was the day after the feast of St. Patrick, and we were amazed to witness the aftermath of the celebrations.
On the way to our hotel, we sidestepped signs of the previous day’s drinking revelry. Hazel had attended a school run by Irish nuns, and loved their sense of humour. She always associated St. Pat’s day with the colour green—green clothing, leprechauns and shamrocks. Now she threaded her way nauseated by the sour smell of vomit.
When she met the friendly people of Ireland, however, it reminded her of her days in Burma with the missionary nuns.
We had sufficient time for a half-day tour of Dublin and viewed the Book of Knells at Trinity College. After visiting the crystal factory at Waterford and Kilkenny Castle, the bus stopped for the night at Killarney. The following day we passed through Cork and visited the famous Blarney Castle, kissing the Blarney Stone and buying souvenirs from the Woollen Mills.
‘Famine walls’ and ‘famine houses’, relics of the Potato Famine, were dotted all over Ireland.
The coach drove through the Ring of Kerry, which reminded us of the Snowy Mountains in Australia. Then we went on to Limerick, home of Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis.
We arrived at Galway Bay in time for lunch.
At Knock, we stopped at the Basilica of Our Lady of Knock. Our only regret was that we could not stay longer.
We returned to Dublin after a week. After two more days at Dublin visiting a Whisky distillery and having dinner at Temple Bar, we flew back to England. From Stansted airport, we caught the train to Nottingham and booked in at the Gresham Hotel where Saturday night brought couples for naughty weekends.

Uncle Clarence, looked slightly thinner, but still held himself tall and straight. He picked us up to meet my youngest cousin, Matthew, born since our last visit.
Using Nottingham as our base, we embarked on the train to Matlock and walked along the Limestone Trail to Abraham’s Heights. Returning via the Derwent Valley Walk on the Derbyshire Downs, we listened to the chatter of chaffinch. Bluetit and blackbirds regaled us.
The next morning we had dinner at the Magna Carta Hotel. Uncle Clarence, who was usually reserved about his past, spoke to Hazel of his work in China during World War II. When war broke out in 1939, he had registered as a conscientious objector and joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, a Quaker organisation, and was based in the city of Kunming, in Yunnan province, near the Burmese border. He was still a pacifist and, although over eighty years old, he and his son, Paul, worked as ministers in the Church of Christ.
The epitome of kindness, Clarence was always ready to do good for others. It was a pleasure to meet him each time we returned to England.
With regret, we said goodbye, little knowing he’d pass away in less than a year.

We left Nottingham for Shrewsbury, a typical Tudor town, stopping at the loveliest B & B on the banks of the River Severn. Our host, David Tudor, a retired school principal, treated us to a lavish breakfast in an exquisite setting, replete with silverware.
Taking a train to Great Malvern the following morning, we climbed North Hill through pockets of snow still left from the last snowfall. We had an equally delightful time at Knighton, in Wales, hiking along the Offa’s Dyke Pass.
On the way back, we stopped, mystified by an unusual sound in the woods. To our delight, a woodpecker was hard at work, tapping at a hollow in a tree. Songsters sang for us. Thrilled, we took another walk along a nature trail in the Rea Valley.
Next day we had a glass of the healing waters in the Pump Room at Bath and did a genteel ‘turn’ around the Assembly Rooms. After buying souvenirs at the Jane Austen shop, we returned to London via Bournemouth and the New Forest.
Before commencing the Italian tour, we visited the Barbican and the Hoe where Francis Drake played bowls at Plymouth.
Then we proceeded on to Penzance. At Westbury, to our surprise and delight, the famous White Horse carved into the hills stood out clearly, as the train passed.
The next day we flew from Heathrow to Rome, where we commenced our wonderful week’s tour of Italy. On our return to London, we visited Churchill’s War Cabinet Room, the Grenadier Guards’ Museum and the National War. Finally, we went to the home of Charles Dickens.
I felt a tug at my heartstrings when we boarded the plane for Australia.

Excerpt from A Damn Good Life by Hazel Barker
p>Colin and Hazel

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October 26, 2013 · 10:53 pm