In this podcast, based on a November 2019 blog post, I talk about the artistic and scholarly culture of Persia and its contribution to the survival of Persia, or Iran, as a nation over many centuries. Surprisingly enough, carpet weaving seems to have played an important part!
In this podcast, based on a November 2019 blog post, I travel to Raukkan in South Australia to pay my respects to the memory of David Unaipon, the polymath who appears on Australia's $50 bill. I also talk about David Unaipon's life and achievements, against the odds, in an early-twentieth-century Australia where the lives of aboriginals such as Unaipon were often strictly controlled.
Adelaide, South Australia, is a very charming city. But sometimes you want to get out into the country. In this podcast, of a blog post I put up in November 2019, I go to the German-Australian town of Hahndorf, and then to the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, to the Fleurieu Peninsula, and to the seaside towns of Port Elliot and nearby Victor Harbour
This podcast combines the fourth and fifth of my posts about travel in New Zealand in springtime. I visit Doubtful Sound / Pātea in south-west New Zealand on the 19th and 20th of September, 2019, taking an overnight boat trip and describing the things I see and do along the way. An overnight boat trip is a really good way to see the fiords of south-west New Zealand, as the weather is often changeable . The blog post is dated 22 December 2019 in the audio; part two, which I added to the first post to complete the podcast as part two is shorter, came out on the 29th.
This is a further podcast in my Iranian series. It concerns the way that Persia, or Iran, has often suffered a form of cultural condescension at the hands of the West, for instance in the relative virtues of the Spartans and the Persians in the '300' films. Iran has also been invaded and occupied many times by outside powers, most recently in the course of World War II: a little-known episode which set the scene for the Battle of Stalingrad. The prickly attitudes of the present-day Islamic Republic can partly be traced to these humiliations. The series is also posted, with images, on my blog at a-maverick.com, and on Medium.
In this podcast, I talk about the serious global problem of phytophthora species being spread from one country to another. Phytophthora is a Greek word meaning 'Destroyer of Plants'. It refers to a kind of fungus or blight organism that thrives in damp soil. There are many species of phytophthora and when a new species is introduced, it is often devastating to the local plant community. Local phytophthora can also wipe out imported plants. The Irish potato blight, which caused a famine in the 1840s, was the result of a species of phytophthora. In this podcast, based on a blog post on my website, I talk about the destruction of native eucalyptus trees in Australia and native kauri trees in New Zealand, by what are probably introduced species of phytophthora brought in on things like muddy boots and imported plants in the days when biosecurity wasn't as strict. Other native species in Australia and New Zealand are affected as well.
This post is one of a series that I'm putting out this southern summer, 2019/2020, about the pleasures of travelling off the beaten track in New Zealand. Off the beaten track in terms of place, and time of year. For it's about a trip I made in spring, when when the weather's improving but there aren't many tourists about, to a place called Wanaka, on Lake Wanaka north of Queenstown. Among other things, Wanaka's the site of an oft-photographed willow, #ThatWanakaTree. So maybe it's not that far off the beaten track after all! But still, it's interesting to visit in the off season and to take some side trips to the alpine Matukituki Valley (which IS off the beaten track) and to the Snow Farm cross-country ski facility, which still has some snow to farm at that time of year.
New Zealand is a young country, but a country with a lot of history all the same. This includes the amazing lake steamer, the TSS Earnslaw, launched in 1912 and still going strong under steam power. This podcast is based on a blog post of the same title, on my website, which includes photos and videos.
I talk about how Adelaide is a supremely walkable city, ‘Designed for Life’, thanks to a farsighted early plan. I walk around the downtown and visit the old gaol, and talk about threats to Adelaide's livability as a result of road construction and loss of heritage buildings.
It had been really hot at Alamut, and the mountains semi-arid. So we went through green forests to the shores of the Caspian Sea, the strange inland ocean of central Asia, where people from Tehran go for their holidays.
Perhaps you've heard of the 'Old Man of the Mountain'? Hassan-i Sabbah was the real-life inspiration for the game Assassin's Creed. I visit his stronghold in the Alamut Valley, part of a historically rebellious and frontier-like part of Iran northwest of Tehran.
This podcast is based on the first of a series of blog posts on Adelaide (the capital of South Australia) and the region nearby. Adelaide is a spectacularly attractive city with massive inner city parklands, though many historic buildings are at risk. The region nearby is where nearly everyone in South Australia who isn't actually from Adelaide lives. It includes the aborignal community of Raukkan, historic settler towns and numerous nature parks.
In this post, I visit the ski resorts of Perisher and Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains area of the Australian Alps. The area's quite famous and historic (as in 'The Man from Snowy River') and the skifields are huge. I give out some practical tips about where to stay and how to save money by booking ahead, and share heaps of photos and videos and stories gleaned by talking to local people.
In this episode, I cross the border into Iran and travel to Tabriz, then on to the Alamut Valley. The first thing I see at the border is people smuggling cigarettes! In a small town on the border, I get told with a throat-slitting gesture that I must wear a hijab in Iran or be killed. This advice was overly dramatic for places like Tehran, which are fairly cosmopolitan (though you'd still get in trouble with the morality police). But it might have been true locally and I certainly wasn't going to offend anyone. Leaving the wild frontier with its smugglers and dire warnings behind, I had planned to head toward the Caspian Sea shore and see some old castles there, then travel along the beautiful, green shore of this inland sea to the Alamut Valley, stronghold of a legendary Mediaeval guild of assassins founded by Hassan-i Sabbah ('The Old Man of the Mountain'). But the roads in the north were too bad. Instead, we travelled along the main highway leading to Tehran, a road lined with pictures of people killed in wars defending Iran's Islamic Revolution: war dead who the Iranians called martyrs. The pictures were decorated with red tulips, which are the Iranian equivalent of the Flanders poppy.
This podcast is based on the first of a series of blog posts I'm putting up about a trip I made to Iran, in the Autumn of 2018. I describe where I went in the country and some of the issues it faces. I crossed overland from Turkey, and made my way to Tabriz, and from there to the Alamut Valley, the home of a famous guild of Mediaeval assassins, who took on the oppressors of the poor. From there I travelled to Tehran, with a side trip to the resort town of Chalus, on the Caspian Sea. Then I went on to Isfahan, a famous planned city; and then Shiraz, home of poets and (before the Islamic Revolution) of Iran's wine-makers as well. The Shiraz area is also where Iran's ancient capital of Persepolis and the associated tomb-complexes of Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasagardae are found. And from there, to the famous, Star Wars-like desert city of Yazd, with its wind-catcher towers that drag air through people's houses in a natural form of air conditioning, and its Zoraostrian 'towers of silence', where the dead were laid out for vultures. I talk about Iran's problems with drought and various forms of oppression and enmity, and its amazing ancient culture that comes through in spite of all that.
This is an experimental upload of the first half of an audiobook of A Maverick Traveller, prepared using Animaker and Amazon Polly. A Maverick Traveller is the first of Mary Jane Walker's travel memoirs, first published in 2017 and since updated The Kindle and print versions contain 93 images and you can go to the sales link here. This audiobook episode follows on from Part 1, beginning at Chapter 25, 'Dictators and Dracula''. See also Mary Jane's website and blog.
This is an experimental upload of the first half of an audiobook of A Maverick Traveller, prepared using Animaker and Amazon Polly. A Maverick Traveller is the first of Mary Jane Walker's travel memoirs, first published in 2017 and since updated. The Kindle and print versions contain 93 images and you can go to the sales link here. The audiobook ends at the end of Chapter 24 'All Roads Lead Around Rome' and the second half begins at the start of Chapter 25, 'Dictators and Dracula'. See also Mary Jane's website and blog.
The world's largest ecological reserve behind a pest-proof fence lies south-east of Cambridge, New Zealand, close to Hobbiton and the Waitomo glow-worm caves. It's the Maungatautari Reserve, also known as Sanctuary Mountain. All kinds of ancient and endangered species now have a chance to thrive on this island in the sky, rising up above the intensively-farmed plains of the Waikato. I went for a ramble on the mountain with the Auckland meetup group, Feet First.