Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nepal tourism appoints son of Edmund Hillary to promote Everest mission

Peter Hillary
After the Earthquake Nepal’s Everest missions has taken a back seat as people are weary to scale the peaks in fear of avalanches. The Nepal government on May 28, 2015 observed the international Everest Day marking the conquest of the world’s highest peak by Edmund Hillary and Tanzing Norgey Sherpa 62 years ago. The day was observed with intentions of reviving tourism in the country.

In a bid to call back tourists the Nepalese Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa appealed to international tourists to visit the country. He assured them that there are still many safe and beautiful places which include heritage and cultural sites along with trekking trails that have remained intact despite the devastating earthquakes.

The minister looked for support from the private sector. He felt that together the public and private sector can rebuild the losses that Nepal has met with.

The mountaineering sector was suffering losses since 2013 when 16 mountain guides were killed in April 18. But the Earthquake in central and North-West Nepal was hit by the devastating earthquakes. The avalanche from the quake killed 18 people which had 5 foreigners and all expeditions had to be brought to a halt.The area is under grave threat owing to melting glaciers and continued avalanches. The country needs faith and support from international tourists and climbers to get things back in tempo.

Before the quakes thousands of climbers trekked the Everest each year providing employment to the Sherpas and bringing millions of dollars for the Government. If Everest mission should stop it would amount to grave losses for the government. So the government has appointed 19 goodwill ambassadors which include Peter Hillary, son of Edmund Hillary, Jamling Tenzing, son of Tenzing Sherpa, Junko Tabei, the first women Everest Summiteer from Japan and Reinhold Mesner, Italy, who climbed the Everest without oxygen for the first time. They will help promote tourism in Nepal.

If the Choo Fits…

Jimmy Choo, Michelle Yeoh,
Georgia May Jagger
Hollywood actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, world-renowned Malaysian fashion designer Datuk Jimmy Choo and British supermodel Georgia May Jagger today added glitz and glamour to the launch of British Airways' flights to Malaysia with a Cinderella-inspired photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.

With the iconic Petronas Twin Towers serving as a stunning backdrop, Tan Sri Yeoh and Jagger dazzled while seated in British Airways' Club World business cabin seats as Datuk Choo slipped on a glass shoe specially designed for the occasion.

Jagger wore a TEMPERLEY LONDON 'Long Sand Goddess Dress' in Almond while Tan Sri Yeoh looked stunning in her own evening gown as they posed for the photograph. Datuk Jimmy Choo was in a suit by Lord's Tailor.

British Airways' inaugural flight to Malaysia arrives at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 2:35pm local time on May 28, 2015. The non-stop route is served by the long-range Boeing 777-200ER aircraft offering customers a choice of four cabins – First and Club World business cabin featuring award-winning flat beds, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy cabin.

Datuk Jimmy Choo said: “Being a proud Malaysian, it has been such a pleasure to support British Airways as they begin services to Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has so much to offer those looking for new business and investment opportunities, or a memorable holiday destination for a few weeks. Beyond the action and nightlife of Kuala Lumpur, my hometown of Georgetown in Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a marvellous place and one that I highly recommend that tourists visit.”

Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh said: “Malaysia is the place I call home so I think it's tremendous British Airways have launched a new route linking London and Kuala Lumpur. There's so much to see and do here, be it visiting the historic monuments dotted around the city, tasting the mouth-watering delicacies served at our famous street food markets or wandering one of the many art galleries. I was born to the north in the city of Ipoh and it's just one of the many inspiring places visitors can explore within easy reach during their stay.”

Georgia May Jagger said: “I've really enjoyed my time in Malaysia. The people are so welcoming and the food is amazing. I've been trying the local speciality dishes. It has also been an incredible experience working with Datuk Jimmy Choo on this one-of-a-kind photoshoot for British Airways. Being made to feel like Cinderella was a truly magical moment – after all, British Airways knows how to treat its customers.”

Jimmy Choo, Michelle Yeoh, 
Georgia May Jagger
To celebrate the inauguration, British Airways is offering special fares to London, the UK and Europe from Kuala Lumpur starting from just RM3,088 for travel between May 28 and November 30. The fares are valid for booking until 16 June 2015.

For more information on British Airways, visit

New global tourism campaign for Singapore to bring more visitors

With visitor numbers in the decline Singapore has cause to worry and has set updated tourism campaigns to present a better tourism picture for lucrative tourists.

The global marketing campaign will be launched in June, which will mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.

Visitation to Singapore has fallen by 7.4 percent since last year according to the readings taken in March which registered 1.2 million visitors coming to the city.

To draw more tourists from its largest source markets China and India and also with intentions of wooing more global tourists, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is investing about S$20 million in the campaign to provide tourists with the best of Singapore experience.

The city has been observing a consistent fall with visitors decreasing by 6.1 per cent to 3.64 million in the first quarter of the year.

There has been some positive growth from new markets like South Korea and UK. China and India continue to be top markets for Singapore. The city has suffered losses in the number of visitors but has seen a gain in the length of stay from visitors in the first quarter of the year.

STB will team up with airlines, hotel, retail and F&B partners for promotions and special deals to attract tourists and making staying in Singapore convenient and attractive for tourist.

Experts however feel that Singapore should change its focus from just promoting the city to promoting the entire ASEAN. That would help Singapore gain more visitors.

This year 2015 is expected to be a challenging year for the Singapore tourism feels the STB. Visitor arrival and receipts will increase only by 0 and 3 percent and 0 to 2 per cent respectively.

Port Stephens Launches New 'Naturefest' Celebration for June--Includes Human Whale on Beach

Port Stephens
A new, month-long program of events in Port Stephens called Naturefest has been launched for June, 2015, to celebrate and promote the region as one of NSW's premier nature destinations.

Beginning with half-priced whale watch cruises celebrating the start of the whale season in Port Stephens on June 1 and ending with the formation of large human whale on June 29, Naturefest aims to draw nature-lovers to the region, 2½ hours north of Sydney, to enjoy its large populations of dolphins, koalas, kangaroos, birdlife and passing whales as well as large tracts of national park and the State's biggest marine park – the 98,200-hectare Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.

Organised by Destination Port Stephens, Moonshadow Cruises, Tamboi Queen Cruises, Imagine Cruises and d'Albora Marina Nelson Bay, the inaugural 2015 Naturefest program incorporates World Oceans Day on June 8 and the start of the winter school holidays on June 26 and includes a month-long program of events and activities designed to foster interaction between visitors to Port Stephens and the region's abundant natural beauty and wildlife.

The program includes:
  • Monday June 1 – Official launch of whale-watch season, which promises a record 18,000 humpbacks passing close to Port Stephens from now to November. Official celebrations at d'Albora Marina Nelson Bay at 9am, followed by half-priced whale-watch cruises, weather permitting, from 10am with Moonshadow Cruises, Tamboi Queen Cruises and Imagine Cruises.
  • Saturday June 6 and 13 - Guided 3km 'Whale Tale' bushwalks through Tomaree National Park near Boat Harbour to spot whales and learn about the bush from 1-3pm. $25 for adults, $15 for children and $60 for a family of four. Book online at
  • World Oceans Day – Monday June 8 – Public holiday – Port Stephens whale and dolphin expert, Frank Future, from Imagine Cruises, will oversee a dolphin census, inviting the public to send in dorsal fin images of as many of Port Stephen's 170 bottlenose dolphins as possible on the day. Images can be emailed t The Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters centre in Port Stephens will also run a family fun day including games and colouring competition on June 8, with half of all ticket sales on the day supporting the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
  • Saturday June 27 - Ocean & Coastal Care Initiatives (OCCI) Whale Tale Headland Day at Barry Park, Fingal Bay in Port Stephens – 10.30am-2.30pm with barbecue, games and whale lectures with prime whale viewing points available for landlubbers. Gold coin donation.
  • Monday, June 29- (during school holidays) – Human Whale. Almost 800 people formed the shape of a giant human whale on the beach at Port Stephens last year to celebrate the whale season and this year organiser, Frank Future, is hoping for more than 1000 people to make the spectacular image. Register at 10am for the noon start of the whale shape on Shoal Bay Beach. Free family event, especially for visitors, with aerial pictures to be taken.

During June, Moonshadow Cruises, Tamboi Queen Cruises and Imagine Cruises will also be running daily whale-watch and dolphin cruises from d'Albora Marina Nelson Bay. Combo packages including whale or dolphin cruises and sandboarding on Australia's biggest sand dunes are also available.

For visitors on the north shores of Port Stephens, Tamboi Queen Cruises and FerryLink offer whale-watching combinations that include the ferry transfer from Tea Gardens or Hawks Nest to connecting whale or dolphin watch cruises daily from Nelson Bay.

Destination Port Stephens CEO, Janelle Gardner, said Naturefest was an exciting new initiative designed to position Port Stephens as a unique and compelling nature destination where scenic beauty and an abundance of wildlife could be easily enjoyed. “Dolphins, koalas, kangaroos, birds and other wildlife make beautiful Port Stephens their home and more humpback whales visit us every winter so we want to share this natural splendour with visitors which is why local cruise operators and Destination Port Stephens have worked together to launch our first Naturefest program,” Ms Gardner said.

For cruise bookings and information on all Naturefest events, visit

For general information on accommodation, dining, maps and holiday deals, visit the official website for Destination Port Stephens –

Fort Worth Offers New Western Adventure Pass

The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau (FWCVB) in partnership with Stockyards Station, Billy Bob's Texas, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Stockyards Museum is pleased to announce the new all-in-one Stockyards Adventure pass, the latest tour offering from the City of Cowboys & Culture.

This new, at your own pace experience in the Stockyards National Historic District includes:
  • A guided historical walking tour
  • A souvenir photo taken on the iconic bull at Billy Bob's Texas – the world's largest honky-tonk
  • Admission to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, home to the world's largest collection of lifestyle wagons
  • Admission to the Stockyards Museum
  • Screening of the “Spirit of the West” movie

Participants are encouraged to watch the Fort Worth Herd, the world's only twice-daily cattle drive held at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as part of their experience.

“We strive to provide one-of-a-kind experiences for our visitors,” said Bob Jameson, FWCVB president and CEO. “People travel from all over the world to see the authentic Western heritage offered in the Stockyards National Historic District. This pass is a fantastic way to kick-off their visit.”

“These types of one-stop shop experiences make it easy for visitors and locals to explore all the entertaining assets our great city has to offer,” said Gary Brinkley, Stockyards Station general manager and Stockyards Adventure partner.

The Stockyards Adventure pass is offered Monday-Saturday from 9AM-5PM and Sundays from 10AM-5PM. The adventure begins at the Stockyards Visitor Information Center (130 E. Exchange Ave Fort Worth) where participants pick up a Fort Worth bandana as part of the experience. Ticket prices Monday-Saturday are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors and $24 for children. Tickets are offered on Sundays at $28 for adults, $26 for seniors and $22 for children (the Stockyards Museum is closed on Sundays). Tickets may be purchased online at

Chocolate Beer in a Bottle for the First Time

Chocolate beer
Experimental brewer, Murray's Craft Brewing Co, has revealed four new beers in its Dark Beer Month line-up this year, in addition to its iconic Wild Thing Imperial Stout. The five winter beers will be released from the June long weekend.

“Each June we bring out our darkest beers and throw a flavour party,” says brewery owner, Murray Howe. “These aren't ordinary beers. They're big, bold, crazy Imperial Stouts, Belgian Strong Ales, Dunkelweizens and Baltic Porters – and we've ensured there's something for everyone this year.”

For the first time, there will be two 'Wild Thing' Imperial Stouts in the bottle – the original milestone beer, PLUS Murray's Wild Thing Chocolate Imperial Stout, both brewed by the beer's original recipe-meister and head brewer, Graeme Mahy.

“I love this beer! There is just nothing insipid about it – Wild Thing is just full of attitude,” says Graeme. “It's well above the upper limits of flavour and colour for its class – Wild Thing is totally black - impossible to see through even when held up to the light.”

“So why would we tinker with this beer and choose to also create a chocolate version? This Easter we brewed our first ever Chocolate Easter Egg Beer, and not only did we get a HUGE public response to the beer, but we were quietly thrilled with how good the beer turned out to be! It got us thinking about experimenting with Wild Thing and chocolate flavour – and boy, has it worked! Not only does it taste sensational for us beer nuts, but it makes dark beer far more approachable for a much broader audience of drinkers. People love the chocolate because it's a flavour that makes people happy, and it removes the bitterness of the original beer that non dark beer drinkers may not be familiar with.”

The third beer featuring in Murray's Dark Beer Month is The Night Demon, a Strong Dark Belgian Ale.

“This beer is a special addition to our line-up, as it was conceived by Newcastle local home brewer, Mark Bigland. Mark was awarded Champion Beer of Show for his Strong Dark Belgian Ale at this year's Newcastle Show Home Brewing Competition. As part of his prize Mark got to brew and bottle a batch of his winning beer with the Murray's brewing team. And we thought his beer was so good it was worthy of a place in this year's Dark Beer Month line-up,” added Graeme.

The brewer's first Dunkelweizen, Ronny Dunkel, is the fourth beer in the Dark Beer Month line-up. It will be available as a draught only beer, providing a lower alcohol, easy drinking alternative to the stronger dark ales.

And finally, the brewer will release a special collaboration beer - a Baltic Porterbrewed at its Bobs Farm brewery jointly with New Zealand craft brewer, Coromandel Brewing. This is another beer with broader appeal and comparatively lower alcohol – an English style beer that's mild on roast character, but quite hoppy, using English-style East Kent Goldings hops.

“Dark beers are becoming more and more popular in Australia, but the trend naturally becomes more prominent in winter. We're aiming to give people some great reasons to celebrate and get out of the house these cooler months,” added Murray.

Murray's Dark Beer Month runs across June, incorporating a total of five dark beer releases, dark beer-inspired dude food dishes at its Brewery restaurant, free concerts and special events at leading craft beer venues across Australia.

At a glance: Murray's Dark Beer release program 2015

Murray's 'Wild Thing' Imperial Stout in the bottle. 

Available from Saturday 6 June. This is a massive, intense drinking experience inspired by the great stouts favoured by the Russian Imperial Court. The colour is intensely black. The flavour is an intense hit of mocha with some malt sweetness but an aggressive hop bitterness and roast grain bite to balance. 10% abv.

Murray's 'Wild Thing' Chocolate Imperial Stout in the bottle. 

Available from Saturday 6 June. Murray's iconic 'Wild Thing' Imperial Stout just got even 'wilder'– with the addition of bitter dark cocoa nibs and vanilla pods. A massive, intense, rich and complex drinking experience with luxurious mouthfeel. Aromas of strong dark chocolate, a hint of vanilla and intense bitter dark chocolate flavour. 10% abv.

The' Night Demon' Strong Dark Belgian Ale in the bottle. 

Available from Saturday 6 June. A Belgian Quad with a toasty/bready flavour and a hint of malty sweet caramels and raisins, it has a smooth but noticeable amount alcohol balanced out with a moderately bitter, medium dry and slightly peppery finish. 10.8% abv

Murray's 'Ronnie Dunkel' Dunkelweizen on draught. 

Available from Saturday 6 June. Ronny is a Bavarian Style Dark Wheat beer, also known as a Dunkelweizen. Ronny pours dark brown with a reddish tinge and a creamy-white head. Pronounced clove with hints of banana in the aroma from the yeast are balanced with caramel and chocolate flavours from the darker roasted malts. A sophisticated, complex and easy drinking dark beer for the winter months. 5.5% abv.

Murray's Baltic Porter on draught. 

Available from mid-June, this collaboration beer was brewed at Murray's Brewery jointly with New Zealand craft brewer, Coromandel Brewing. An English style beer brewed for Baltics that's mild on roast character, but quite hoppy, using English-style East Kent Goldings hops. Approx 6% abv.


All beers will be available from Murray's Brewery in venue or online (, plus leading craft beer venues progressively across the month of June. 

Murray's Craft Brewing Co.

Murray's Craft Brewing Co
Port Stephens-based Murray's Craft Brewing Co. is one of Australia's leading craft beer brewers. 
From humble beginning in Taylors Arm (population 50) on the NSW North Coast nine years ago, Murray's Brewery relocated to larger premises at Port Stephens in 2009 where today it runs a microbrewery, Cellar Door and one of the region's best restaurants. 
Murray's beers are available nationally.

Yosemite National Park one of 10 Best Readers' Choice Awards for Kid-Friendly, says USA Today Readers

The winners of the 10Best Readers' Choice Awards for Best Kid-Friendly Destinations are in. Nominees in the contest, sponsored by USA Today and were chosen by a panel of experts and voted on by the public Yosemite National Park secured the spot of No. 10, the only national park on the list. Other picks were the theme park homes of Anaheim (No. 4), Orlando (No.6) and San Diego (No.7). Niagara Falls, New York took the No. 1 spot.

Yosemite National Park's gateway communities, such as Yosemite Gold Country, the most direct route to Yosemite from Northern California via State Highway 120 are also kid-friendly. Miles of mountain bike trails, swimming and fishing spots, historic gold rush era towns like Jamestown and hands-on state parks like 1897 Railtown, with real steam locomotive train rides, and Columbia Historic State Park, for a step back in time and ride on a stage coach are designed for kids, as well as the kid in everyone. These two museums will keep children interested; the Sonora Fire Department Museum and Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum. A favorite activity in the Gold Country, where gold was discovered in 1848, is still trying your luck at panning. Three gold panning locations and mines keeps history alive in the area; Hidden Treasure Gold Mine Tours & Matelot Gulch Mine Supply Store in Columbia, Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown, and 49er Mining Supplies in Columbia.

YARTS, the public transportation system for Yosemite National Park is also kid-friendly. Children 12 and younger ride free with a paying adult, and the adult price of $25 includes the Park's gate fees. YARTS uses “bus-only” access lanes during peak traffic periods to reduce travel times and connects directly with the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle within the park. The bus runs daily from May 16 to September 20, and twice daily during peak season, June 13 to September 7. YARTS bus stops are throughout the county including three major hotels; The Hotel at Black Oak Casino Resort in Tuolumne City, Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks in East Sonora, and the Inns of California in downtown Sonora. No reservations are necessary; tickets may be purchased on board. (For more information, visit

Other stops are in Groveland/Yosemite Pines, Buck Meadows/Yosemite Lakes and Big Oak Gate/Crane Flat. Additionally, the YARTS stop in Mariposa is also operating.

`The Yosemite Gold Country/Tuolumne County Visitors Center at Chinese Camp on Highway 49/120 provides information on lodging and campsite availability with on-site reservation assistance, maps, park tour options, historic gold rush sites, souvenirs and activities, and an overview on exploring the rest of the Gold Country. For more information, visit

Yosemite Gold Country/Tuolumne County:

Tuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, located 133 miles east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Gold was discovered in Tuolumne County in 1848, setting off the major gold rush of 1949. The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area. The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year-round vacation destination.

Northern Australia to see the expansion of cruise services

The Territory Government has welcomed planned changes to federal shipping laws that support the expansion of cruise services across remote Northern Australia.

The Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss has announced the creation of a new Coastal Shipping Act which will introduce a single permit system for all vessels entering Australia waters.

“This means that once they have secured a permit, small foreign expedition vessels can sail freely between Australian ports and across Australian state borders without the need to call in to an international port in between,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

“These token international port calls were a huge cost and time burden on smaller cruise operators and have been a barrier to the development of our burgeoning cruise industry across the Arnhem Coast.

“It’s great to see that the Federal Government has listened to our concerns and responded with a smarter, more streamlined system that opens up enormous tourism opportunity for Aboriginal communities in North East Arnhem Land.”

The cruise ship industry injected $54 million into the Territory economy last year and there’s a growing market of expedition cruise lines looking for authentic cultural experiences and rarely visited natural attractions.

“This change is particularly good news for Aboriginal tourism enterprises such as Lirrwi who have been working with local art centres in promoting cruise ship visits to Yirrkala and Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island,” Mr Giles said.

“This is a new industry and I take my hat off to them for pioneering a new cultural tourism trend which creates jobs and income for local communities.

“Lirrwi already have three expedition cruises booked for the next 12 months and the Commonwealth’s proposed changes should make it possible for this industry to expand even further.

“This is all part of getting our settings and infrastructure right in preparation for an economic tilt towards tourism over the years ahead.”

Draft legislation is being developed with a view to introducing it into Federal Parliament before the end of this year’s Winter sittings.

Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces - flock on up!

2015 Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces Program 


7.30am Barbeque Breakfasts

Sponsored by Merriwa Rotary & Merriwa Bowls Club
Start the day with a hearty breakfast with fresh locally grown beef. Steak and Sausage sandwiches and Egg and Bacon Rolls. Early start and will cook right up to lunch.

8.00am Street Stalls 

- Over 100 stalls - all different & unique
Come and sample everything and anything from fresh home made produce, arts and crafts, face painting, and plenty of food and coffee. There is something for everyone.

8.00am CWA Morning Tea with knitting exhibitions

You have not eaten country until you have tried one of the tempting treats from the Country Women’s Association and Merriwa has one of the best in the land. Start from 8.00am with freshly made Soup, Scones, Sandwiches, Tea, Coffee and Cappuccino.

8.30am Pleasant View Fibres - Wool Spinning Demonstration

Sponsored by Merriwa Auto Electrical
Take a step back in time and marvel at the skill of spinning yarn from wool straight off the sheep’s back. Producing unique yarn & woolen products .

9.00am The City of Maitland Pipes and Drums

Sponsored by Merriwa Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Ass. Inc.
Come and listen to the pipers as they let the music play in the streets of Merriwa. Unique sounds vibrate through the streets for all to enjoy

9.30am Shelly Minson - Tamworth’s Rockabilly Sweetheart

Shelly Minson
Sponsored by Bob & Jan Baihn
Shelly will be performing outstanding Rockabilly entertainment outside of Merriwa Home Hardware prior to the Running of the Sheep.

9:30am Free Train Rides

Sponsored by Hunter Mutual
Thomas the Tank Train departs regularly from Bow Street & finish at 3pm.

9.30am Modern Day Shearing Display

Sponsored by Curtis Gant Irving Solicitors
Observe the hard work as they drag their sheep & fleece it and then as they toss the fleece for classing.

9.45am Upper Hunter Motoring Vintage Vehicle Display

Sponsored by El Dorando Motel Merriwa
You will be amazed just how perfectly these vehicles have been restored. They do not make cars like this any more. Speak to the owners who restored these vehicles and enjoy the attention to detail.

Hunter Valley Helicopters

10.00am Helicopter Rides

$60.00 per person per flight. Departs from Merriwa Oval No: 2 located Marquet and Brisbane Streets, just a 2 minute walk from Kids Corner.

10:00am Cosy Iron

Sponsored by Merriwa Café & Bakery
Quality Blacksmiths of this caliber are hard to find, watch & enjoy the skill from an era gone by.

10:00am Blade Shearing Demonstrations

Sponsored by Curtis Gant Irving Solicitors
Watch as expert hands demonstrate the art of shearing & handling the fleece. Demonstrations also in the afternoon. Located at the Royal Hotel, corner of Bettington and Vennacher Streets. Also 11am and 1pm.

10:00am Merriwa’s Hanging of the Quilts 

Beautiful quilts

Sponsored by Lenore’s Quilting and Martin’s Transport
Talents from local quilters will be displayed at the Merriwa School of Arts. Beautiful quilts will be hung for all to admire. There is a chance to win a quilt of your very own as well as craft stalls to wander through. Open to 4.30pm, these works of art are worth taking a wander through.

10:00am Stan Ray Chainsaw Artist

Sponsored by Open Community Sponsors
Witness the amazing skills and artistic talent of Stan Ray as he uses a chainsaw to create inspiring works of art. Out side the Fitzroy Hotel and Caltex Service Station. Guess what Stan will create and win the art prize.

10.00am Damper with Cockies Joy washed down with Billy Tea

See how real bread was made back in the day. The food of a stockman damper with Cockies Joy and Billy Tea. Outside the historic Fitzroy Hotel in Bow Street. Cooking demonstrations up to 4pm.

10:00am Holy Trinity Open Day & Morning Tea

Sponsored by Open Community Sponsors
Come and explore Holy Trinity in Bow Street, from 10am to 12 noon and 2pm to 4pm. Take a wander through the church to see if you can locate the “10 Things of Interest”. There is nothing better than the expert cooking skills and hospitality of the women of the Anglican Church and Merriwa has the best to test your taste buds.

10.00am Merriwa Fire and Rescue NSW Open Day

Between 10am -2 pm at the Merriwa Station in Bettington Street. We will be offering tours of the station and will have free gift packs for children. We welcome everyone to come and have a look at our Fire Engine and meet some of our members. We are looking for new recruits too if anyone is interested.


Doonooch Dance Company
11.30am Presented by Kamilaroi Elder Aunty Rosalind, including performances by Doonooch, the World’s Premier Traditional Aboriginal Dance Company. Sponsored by Merriwa IGA.
The Festival of the Fleeces Committee would like to acknowledge the Gaewegal people who were the traditional custodians of the Merriwa region and surrounding lands, and the Kamilaroi people, the custodians today . The Festival Committee would also like to pay respect to Elders both past and present of the Gaewegal and Kamilaroi nations and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.


8:00am -The ROAR Petting Zoo

Sponsored by Merriwa Central School
Come along and pat the baby animals from Merriwa Central School ROAR boys. Experience the joy that only baby animals can give.

8.00am GJ’s Laser Tag

Located outside Merriwa swimming pool, their Laser guns use Infra-Red beams and sensors, the same as used on a TV remote control, completely harmless to your eyes and body, a healthy sport for all ages. So why not organise some family, friends, or work colleagues and challenge yourself to the team sport of GJ’s laser Tag this Saturday from 8.00am to 4.00pm, Vennacher Street Merriwa.

8.00am Jumping Castle, & Pop Corn

Fresh made pop corn, flavoured pop corn, and a jumping castle. It’s a match made in children’s heaven.

8.00am Mini Jeep Rides, and Clown games

On your mark, set and go…… Plenty of fun for the kids with prizes to be won.

10.30am Working Sheep Dog Display 

Sponsored by Merriwa Pharmacy
Observe Zac Ede, as he works his dogs around the sheep, watch him communicate with his dogs through whistles and movements to bring the sheep into their pen. Demonstration held also at 2.15pm.

10:30am My Pet Dinosaur

Sponsored by Upper Hunter Shire Council
Meet and interact with Rexie a 6 month old baby T-Rex and his friends, Cera, Rosa and Koda. The display also includes a selection of dinosaur fossils including skulls, claws, teeth and eggs along with information banners about dinosaurs.

11:00am Croc Stars Reptile Show

Saltwater Crocodile
Experience a reptile exhibition with non-venomous Australian lizards, turtles, snakes and crocodiles with a "hands on" reptile awareness show. Their message is one of conservation of our environment by the preservation of our beautiful Australian native reptiles.

11:00am Sparkles the Clown

Sponsored by ROSTO Olives
Sparkles provides a range of craft activities for the kids, from making juggling balls out of rice & balloons, frogs on a stick, beaded floral necklaces, pirate eye patches and more – quick and easy craft that they can make in a number of minutes & walk away with. Balloon modeling – very popular with the kids, make hats & animals out of balloons. Tricks, lolly pops & treats handed out.. It’s all FREE.


Running of true sheep

12.00pm See the famous sheep in red socks. 

200 sheep wearing red woollen socks lead a procession of marching bands, school groups, community services, and local businesses through the main street of Merriwa. Wave to Big Dog as he passes along the crowd. Thank you to the Campbell family for the generous use of their sheep.

12.00pm Ray Hadley & the 2GB Continuous Call Team Live
Don’t just listen, watch it live as Ray Hadley and the 2GB Continuous Call Team entertain while broadcasting live around Australia to 4.30pm.

1.00pm Croc Stars Reptile Show

Sponsored by Merriwa RSL
Experience a reptile exhibition with non-venomous Australian lizards, turtles, snakes and crocodiles with a "hands on" reptile awareness show. Their message is one of conservation of our environment by the preservation of our beautiful Australian native reptiles. "Have fun while learning".

1.00pm Dog High Jump

Sponsored by the Campbell Family
Watch the athleticism of local farm dogs as they hurdle the jump to arrive on the back of the “work Ute”. Located at the intersection of Kids Corner.

1.45pm Gum Boot Throwing Competition

Sponsored by Di’s Clothing Patch
Enter on the day. $2 entry fee. Compete in open men’s, women’s, boy’s and girl’s., under 5, and over 60. Prizes to be won. No steel cap boots. View rules on the day.
2.15pm Working Sheep Dog Display
Sponsored by Merriwa Pharmacy
Observe Zac Ede, as he works his dogs around the sheep, watch him communicate with his dogs through whistles and movements to bring the sheep into their pen.

2.30pm Sheep ‘POO’ Spitting Competition

Sponsored by Alexiam of Merriwa Preserves & Cookery
How far can you spit a piece of Sheep ‘POO’? Well the Festival uses jelly beans, just incase of accidental eating. Enter on the day. $2 entry fee. Open men’s and women’s, boys and girls, under 5 and over 60.

4:00pm Entertainment moves to the Showground
Join in the fun and entertainment at the Merriwa Showground. Food stalls, and a fun afternoon of children’s entertainment ending with fireworks by KaBoom.


8.00pm Team Penning Challenge

Sponsored by Anthea Wright Veterinary Services
UHTP competition starting at 8am. Then at 11am, breaking for the parade, then at 1pm- The Rosto Olives Festival of the Fleeces Challenge. 30 teams 2 rounds, 1 winner. Prizes for 1st place. Competitors must be 13 yrs + & members of UHTP. Day memberships available. Held over 2 days

10.00am Photographic Exhibit

Sponsored by Outback Press - Merriwa District Diary
Local photographers will amaze you with the photography and artwork on display. If you like it you can also purchase it.

11.00am Tullymore Clydesdale & Shire Horse Display

Sponsored by Tullymore
Tullymore Stud is the only Stud in Australia successfully breeding two breeds of heavy horses, Clydesdale and Shire Horses, with the Stud consistently producing Royal Show Supreme Champions with both breeds.

2.00pm Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces Sheep Yard Dog Trials 

Sheep Yard Dog Trials
Sponsored by Upper Hunter Fire Protection, the Royal Hotel Merriwa & Merriwa Pharmacy
Due to the Australian Championships being held on the same day, this year will be a demonstration for all to enjoy. Observe and be amazed as working dogs and their owners. Show off their farming skills with the farmers best mate.

4.00pm Children’s Hobbie Sheep Races & Lolly Scramble

Sponsored by Coal & Allied Mount Pleasant Project
Families will enjoy the fun as age appropriate groups of children race for the title of Festival Champion and the winner’s prize. The judges will be tough, & are looking for fun and thoughtfulness & abiding by the rules.
Bring the kids along to scramble for as many lollies as they can possibly grab. Age appropriate groups for safety. Buckets of lollies cannoned into the air! As much fun for the parents as it is for the kids!

5.00pm Whip Cracking Competition

Sponsored by Kemp Rural Partnership
4 Divisions- Under 8, 8-13, 13- 18, 18+. $5 entry. Prizes for highest score in each division of Whips donated by Melaleuka Rural Services. Entries taken on the day. Kids Roping available also for a gold coin donation.

5.00pm Sheep ‘POO’ Spitting & Gumboot Throwing Competition

How far can you spit a piece of Sheep ‘POO’? Well the Festival uses jelly beans, just incase of accidental eating. Or throw a gum boot? Enter on the day. $2 entry fee. Open men’s and women’s, boys and girls, under 5 and over 60.


6.15PM Sponsored by ROSTO Olives

Take pleasure in a fire works show. Located at the Merriwa Showground. 2014 went off with a bang or two, it was the talk of the festival and 2015 is set to be just as explosive. See the new items being tested here in Merriwa.

6.30PM Battle of the Sexes Cut Out Competition

After the fireworks- Battle of the sexes cut out comp - 3 Divisions. Junior, juvenile & open. Prizes (Feed vouchers donated by Farmers Warehouse) for highest point junior and highest point juvenile, Prizes (Feed Vouchers donated by Farmers Warehouse) for highest point open male & female. Overall highest point score 2015 UHTP Festival of the Fleeces Cut out - wins a stallion service (donated by Mark Shearer) for "Knights Ballymore" registered Australian Stock Horse (2014 UHTP performance horse of the year.)
Entry for opens & Juveniles $15. Juniors $10. Proceeds go to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. All competitors must be members of UHTP day memberships allowed.


8.00am Upper Hunter Team Penning

Prizes for 1st place in all 3 divisions. Top ten shoot out for top ten places over all 3 divisions for Sat & Sun runs to be held at the end of the Sunday comp. Prizes for 1st place.

9.00am Anglican parish of Merriwa Blessing of the Fleece Service

Holy Trinity Merriwa Sunday Church Service. All welcome. Bow Street Merriwa.

9.00am Bush Poets Breakfast - CWA Rooms, Bettington Street

Sponsored by Merriwa CWA
Enjoy a 2 hour entertaining breakfast full of laughs with the world’s best bush poet Carol Heuchan. The perfect way to finish the festival. $2.00 entry fee. Prizes on offer for various categories and age groups. Breakfast by the fabulous CWA ladies. Bookings essential as seating will be limited. Tickets available at the door, or pre order through the Merriwa Visitor Information Centre on 6521 7046.

11.00am Men of League Old Boys & Ladies League Tag

With Merriwa, Denman and the men of league old boys we have also invited Scone, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Aberdeen, Greta-Branxton, and Murrurundi to play for the group 21 old boys cup. 
2pm the Ladies League Tag will play Denman followed by the Merriwa v Denman men at 3pm. On this day money is raised for the men of league foundation, and for the Merriwa old boys who just purchased sporting kits for Merriwa Central, St Josephs and Cassilis Schools .

We look forward to seeing you here at Merriwa...'a breath of fresh air'...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Celsius Gelato Bar - a nitrogen blast!

Celsius Gelato Bar
If you love good food and want the perfect dessert then go to the new Celsius Gelato Bar at the Chatswood Transport Interchange in Sydney Australia.

The Celsius Dessert Bar came about because of three individuals - Jen, Cynth and Irene - and their love of good food. In their pursuit of creating the perfect dessert Celsius was born. They aim to serve the creamiest, freshest and best tasting gelato. From my recent visit I can vouch this is correct.

The unique point of difference with the ice cream they make is that it is made using liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is cold, very very cold. It freezes ice cream so fast that it creates the smallest of ice crystals and so makes a very smooth texture. It is fun watching your gelato being made through the window as the liquid nitrogen works its magic and creates a lot of white steam.

Celsius Spotty Dog
For the first time Chatswood has special light installations for the Vivid festival. (Make sure you do as we did - get a Celsius gelato when you get off the train or bus before walking down the mall to see the Vivid lights.)

I enjoyed my special Vivid creation of Blue Velvet gelato made with cheese cake gelato, blue velvet cake and crushed candied almonds. It was yummy.

My son chose the Spotty Dog, a classic cookies and cream gelato topped with mini oreos. He thought his dessert was great!

Some of the delicious desserts on the menu include:
  • Going Bananas (Warm deep fried banana fritters served with palm sugar gelato and salted gula melaka sauce)
  • Celsius Applerumble (Warm apple crumble with creamy burnt butter gelato and butterscotch sauce)
  • Celsius Popsicles (freshly made gelato on sticks)
  • Coffee O'clock (Espresso gelato with candied almonds, folded with nutella and coffee brittle with real richness of clement coffee beans)
  • Monkey Magic (Banana gelato with nutella and peanut butter choc chip cookie topped with caramelised banana)
  • Watermelon Splash (Watermelon and raspberry sorbet topped with honeycomb crunch)
  • Tweetie Sweetie (Sweet corn gelato with blackberry coulis)
  • Big Hero (Ovaltine malt chocolate with chocolate wafers and malted chocolate crunch)

The good thing about Celsius Gelato Bar is that there is always something new to try. They add new flavours every month. They do this because they only use fresh local produce that is in season.

The Celsius Gelato Bar is easy to find. When you get off a train at Chatswood station, turn left after passing through the exit gates, cross one street and head to the Celsius Gelato Bar in the kiosk area. You will spot it with its lovely pastel colours.

Celsius Gelato is fresh, creamy and fast dessert in your mouth. What's not to love about the Celsius Gelato Bar in Chatswood? I know that when I next travel to Sydney I will stop by for a repeat visit to try some of the other desserts and flavours on the menu.

Celsius Gelato Bar

Celsius Dessert Bar

Location: Kiosk 4, Chatswood Bus Interchange
     436 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood NSW 2057
Phone : (02) 8068 6895
Opening hours: Mon - Wed : 12pm - 8pm
     Thu - Fri : 12pm - 10pm
     Sat : 12pm - 9pm; Sun : 12pm - 6pm

Have a Once-in-a Lifetime New Zealand Experience (Twice…)

New Zealand
Ever looked at one of your travel snaps and thought: “Take me back”? Tourism New Zealand launches a new social media campaign #NZMustDo.

Now travellers who have had an unforgettable experience in New Zealand have the chance to do exactly that – and to take a friend along to relive the moment.

It might be that time you saw the sun rise from a hot air balloon gliding silently above Hawke's Bay, your first sip of pinot noir after following a cycle trail in Central Otago, or paddling your kayak through the pristine waters of Milford Sound.

Whatever your “must do” New Zealand experience, all you need to do is share a captioned photo of it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #NZMustDo and tag the person you'd love to do it again with for a chance to win a holiday for two to New Zealand.

The prize includes two return international airfares flying Air New Zealand and seven nights' accommodation, activities and transfers.

Tourism New Zealand Director of Marketing Andrew Fraser says the competition has been created in response to the success of hash tag #NZMustDo which has seen more than 50,000 photos published to Instagram alone in the last year.

“There are so many things to see and do in New Zealand that visitors want to share with their friends,” says Fraser, “And we hope that this competition will prompt current and previous travellers to share their most memorable experiences too.”

Fraser says word of mouth remains the number one factor in travel decision-making and, according to figures from Facebook, up to 50 per cent of people say they were inspired to visit a destination after seeing a friend's photo on the social networking site.

New Zealand
Tourism New Zealand will short-list 10 finalists for the #NZMustDo competition and its Facebook fans will vote on the winner, which will be announced in June.

Forget the time machine. Travellers who have had an unforgettable experience in New Zealand can now go back and relive it – and take a friend along for the ride.

Minions come to Eureka Skydeck these school holidays

Eureka Skydeck

It will be Minion Mania these school holidays at Eureka Skydeck, with the popular observation deck turning into a Minion-themed oasis during the winter break, beginning June 26 to July 12.

To celebrate the launch of the movie, Minions, Eureka Skydeck has gone Minion Mad, with all kids scoring a pair of their very own Minion Goggles when they visit between 11am-3.30pm during school holidays.

Kids can also enjoy Minion-themed activities, and go into the running to win a family pass to see Minions the movie, each day of the holiday period! Other Minion-themed goodies include:
  • The Minions Movie colour-in sheets*
  • The Minions Movie stickers*
  • The Minions Movie badges*

Eureka Skydeck

The animated prequel to Despicable Me sees Kevin, Stuart and Bob venture out into the world to find a new evil boss, after continuously failing to keep their despicable masters. Finding themselves without someone to serve yet again, these single-celled yellow organisms take on the challenge of finding the perfect master, only to discover a bigger challenge; saving all of Minionkind.

Eureka Skydeck provides guests with 360 degree floor-to-ceiling views of Melbourne and beyond. During the school holidays guest will also be able to take full advantage of:
  • The Serendipity Table – Located on Level 1, the Serendipity Table is an immersive gesture-sensitive table-top that gives guests a top-down view of Melbourne and many of its fantastic land marks and attractions before they head up to Level 88. 
  • The Edge - The world’s only Edge experience is an awe inspiring a 3m by 3m transparent glass cube, which slides out from the building on Level 88, suspending guests above the Melbourne skyline. Patrons can purchase their official photo taken while out on the Edge, ready for upload to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • The Outdoor Terrace - Enclosed by a wire grid, the Outdoor Terrace exposes guests to the elements on Level 88. The Terrace is right next to The Edge, so family and friends can view those inside.

    Eureka Skydeck

  • Eureka VERTIGO – Is an illusory green screen activation that features an Edge set that presents guests with the illusion they have fallen through the glass cube and are holding on for dear life 285 metres above the ground.
For further information about Eureka Skydeck, visit or call 03 9693 8888.

Chinese tour professional included in the new list of billionaires of China

Many Chinese tour service professionals have been included in China’s new list of billionaires. Feng Bin, 55, chairman of Beijing UTour International Travel Service has been declared as the new billionaire in the tourism service company.

According to Forbes, Feng owns 32% of UTour, a stake worth $1.2 billion at the closing price on 25th May, 2015 for 108.88 yuan.

UTour’s shares have gained more than 300% in the past year amid a boom in China’s travel industry. Other Chinese billionaires with industry ties include Neil Shen, a co-founder of online travel site Ctrip, and Wang Zhenhua, founder of mainland budget carrier Spring Air.

In the first quarter UTour’s revenue went up hugely by 56 per cent to 1.1 billion yuan or $177 million. The company announced a private placement plan last week to raise as much as 2.8 billion yuan, or $451.6 million by issuing 53 million new shares at 52.7 yuan for its latest acquisition.

In the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in January last year, UTour raised 337.5 million Yuan or $54.4 million, from the sale of 14.6 million shares at 23.15 yuan each. Feng has been in the tourism business for the past 33 years.

World's Crocodile Heavy Weight Champion Cassius Turns 112

The saying goes to never smile at a crocodile, but Cassius the saltwater crocodile couldn't help but leave his audience smiling as the 'salty' celebrated a record 112th birthday, complete with balloons, a 'happy birthday' sign – and a chicken birthday cake.

Recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity, and also thought to be the oldest, Cassius measures 5.48metres (18ft) in length and weighs 1300kg (2,866 pounds).

The monster croc celebrated his 112th birthday from his retirement home on idyllic Green Island, a Great Barrier Reef coral cay off the coast of Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Cassius was captured in 1984 after becoming a problem crocodile in the Northern Territory for stealing cattle and attacking boat propellers. When caught, he was missing a leg and had battle scars all over his body, testament to a hard-fought life in the wild.

Croc handler and founder of Marineland Melanesia on Green Island, George Craig, bought the croc and took him to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef to live out his retirement years in peace and safety at the Craig's crocodile park – Marineland Melanesia.

George named the fighter croc after another world Heavyweight Champion Cassius Clay, the birth name of boxer Muhammad Ali.

The park is family-owned and run with three generations of the Craig family living on the island and working at tiny Great Barrier Reef coral cay off the coast of Cairns.

Zookeeper and youngest Craig family member Jemma has known Cassius her entire life.

“They give crocodiles a maximum age of about 90 years in the wild just because another croc will eventually come along and kill them,” Jemma says.

“Because he's been in captivity and sheltered for the past 30 years, he has lived a lot longer.

“Green Island is a really unique place - I think it's the only sand cay on The Great Barrier Reef that has a rainforest growing on it and a crocodile zoo let alone the biggest croc in captivity.”

Cassius celebrated his milestone with Marineland Melanesia visitors and three generations of Craig family handlers who tend to the battle-scarred and ancient croc's every need.

As for how many more birthdays Cassius will celebrate, it's anybody's guess; but with his relaxed island lifestyle Cassius may yet be cared for by the fourth generation of the Craig family.

“He's living on a tropical island so what more could you want the last years of your life?” says Jemma.

Japan’s Gion Matsuri festival puts the spotlight on Kyoto

The world-famous Gion Matsuri Festival will once again put the spotlight on its host city Kyoto this July for the annual staging of the famed Japanese event. During the month-long celebration, over 30 carnival-style traditional festivities will draw crowds to Japan’s cultural capital to marvel at a host of parades and traditional celebrations.

The Gion Matsuri Festival is often regarded as one of Japan’s leading festivals, and is named after Kyoto’s Gion district, Japan’s most exclusive Geisha entertainment district. The festival has advanced significantly since its beginnings, when it was originally a religious ritual to calm the plague that spread all over the country in 869AD. Today it attracts thousands of visitors to the city, which erupts in a vibrant display of culture and where Japan’s festivities and culture are showcased through a series of parades. Despite being named after Kyoto’s Gion district, the hub of activity centres around the Yasaka-jinja shrine.

‘Yamahoko Junko’ is the highlight of the festival and this year is set to wow crowds when it takes place on 17 July 2015. Visitors are invited to see giant decorated floats called ‘Hoko’ and ‘Yama’ as they are pulled through the city. Children and adults ride on the Yamahoko floats, embracing the festival music with whistles and bells to heighten the carnival mood. During the evening, festivities turn to Shinkosai, a ritual that starts at the famed Yasaka-jinja shrine and sees three portable shrines paraded by over a thousand men dressed in their traditional Japanese happi coats to the temporary otabisho shrine.

In the run up to Yamahoko Junko, the streets of Gion are closed to cars for the three days ahead of its start to allow the floats to be built in the streets. Street vendors line the roads selling traditional Japanese snacks for those arriving to watch the masterpieces take shape. Visitors to the city over this iconic festival period should make sure they are ready to don a traditional yukata – a casual kimono – to really feel like they are part of the festivities.

In 2014, after an absence of more than 50 years, the festival welcomed back its tradition of hosting two separate parades on the 17th and 24th July. The first is Saki-matsuri, the procession where portable shrines leave their home shrine and the second is Ato-matsuri, the procession where the portable shrines are returned home. The two separate processions merged in 1966 to promote tourism however this year they will be celebrated once again as separate processions.

Baz Luhrmann Honoured at World's Largest Jazz Festival in Montreal, Canada

The unique musical theatre talents of Australian director Baz Luhrmann will be honoured at this year's Festival International de Jazz de Montreal with a divinely mad onstage celebration of his luminous works, including Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.

Luhrmann's flamboyant creations and brilliant imagery will come to life as an on-stage, theatrical experience created by renowned conceptualists, For The Record, at the 36th annual Montreal Jazz Festival, Canada.

Enshrined in the Guinness World Records as the largest jazz festival in the world, this year's event will transform the city of Montreal into a meeting place for more than 2.5 million music enthusiasts from all over the world, from 26 June - 5 July 2015.

Appearing at the Festival for the first time is British soul singer and music phenomenon, Joss Stone, who will perform tracks from her seventh album, Water For Your Soul. Joss Stone joins the festival along with almost 3000 musicians and buskers, 25 venues and 800 concerts, of which two-thirds are free of charge.

Jazz it up and join the city-wide celebrations of music, sunshine and culture in Montreal, the city of festivals.

New Zealand welcomes football world

Most of the 24 teams have arrived in New Zealand for the tournament that will be played out in seven host cities from 30 May – 20 June. The tournament kicks off on Saturday, 30 May, with New Zealand taking on the Ukraine at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium.

Traditional welcome

The United States and Myanmar – two FIFA U-20 World Cup teams that will play most of their group games in Auckland and Whangarei – were given their first taste of unique Kiwi hospitality during a traditional Māori welcome ceremony at Whangarei’s Terenga Paraoa Marae.

Both teams were greeted onto the Terenga Paraoa Marae with a spectacular and emotional powhiri (Māori welcome). As is tradition, the welcome included a haka (Māori war chant), waiata (song) and a spine-tingling performance by the highly accomplished kapa haka group Te Puu Ao. The teams were then presented with a blessed taonga –Māori treasure.

The welcome for both the USA and Myanmar was befitting of the North Island city of Whangarei -gateway to the Far North of New Zealand and the marine playground of the Bay of Islands. Whangarei is a city steeped in cultural history and spirituality, thanks in part to the early settlement of the Ngai Tahuhu iwi (tribe) who made the fertile coastal land of Whangarei their home.

The USA – veterans of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with 12 appearances – will begin their campaign against tournament newcomers Myanmar at Whangarei’s Northland Events Centre on 30 May.

South American flair

At Wellington airport on Tuesday (26.5.15) it was all about Argentina as the football powerhouse touched down in New Zealand just a few days before taking on Panama in the second kick-off of the opening day at Wellington’s Regional Stadium.

Argentina was warmly welcomed to New Zealand with a kapa haka performance by two local schools. The players also took part in a traditional hongi (Māori greeting) and were each gifted a blessed pounamu (New Zealand greenstone jade) by the local iwi (tribe).

Argentina – one of the most highly regarded nations of the football world – will be in good hands in Wellington, a city that boasts a strong football community that backs the Wellington Phoenix – New Zealand’s only professional football club.

European hopes

The German U-20 football team arrived in the South Island city of Christchurch on Wednesday (27.05.15) where they will be hoping to emulate the heroics of the men’s senior side that won the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

The team were treated to a traditional Māori welcome on arrival into Christchurch International Airport – the gateway to the splendours of New Zealand’s South Island – with their captain, Kevin Akpoguma experiencing a traditional Māori hongi (Māori greeting).

Members of the squad were also gifted a pounamu blessed by the local Māori.

Germany will kick off their FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign against Oceania hopefuls Fiji at Christchurch Stadium on Monday, 1 June (NZT).

The European footballers will play all their group games in the ‘Garden City’ of Christchurch.

10 Ways to Live Like a 'Knifer'

Like a mythical kingdom, the city of Yellowknife in Canada's Northwest Territories is the land of stories. Get to know the dynamic energy of its people, who enjoy all the modern amenities of a large city in the middle of a vast subarctic wilderness, just minutes from lakes, waterfalls and wildlife.


The capital city has an arts and music scene to match. During summer, outdoor entertainment is plentiful, with contemporary rock bands and traditional Dene drum dances enjoyed equally by 'Knifers and visitors to the city. The food and arts scene is equally eclectic all year round.

1. Watch the greatest light show on earth, the Aurora Borealis, between October and March. Witness the night sky shimmer green, red and blue, from your own outdoor hot tub.

2. Enjoy 20 hours of daylight activities during summer. Think hiking, kayaking and mountain biking.

3. Explore Yellowknife's Old Town and travel back in time. Its ramshackle streets, fishing shacks and gold-rush ambiance paving the way to the city's aboriginal village of N'Dilo on Latham Island.

4. Experience the best fishing and canoeing in the world on Great Slave Lake and the Ingraham Trail.

5. Yellowknife is a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles, with an eclectic art scene. Spend a day shopping for unique art, craft and jewellery, created by local artists.

6. Whet your appetite with impeccable gastronomy, using locally northern pike, Arctic grayling, and lake trout from pristine Great Slave Lake, Arctic char from the rivers, fresh buffalo burgers and Baffin shrimp.

7. Step back in time. Yellowknife sits atop the Canadian Shield. The oldest rocks in the region date more than four billion years of age.

8. Explore the wide-open Northern backcountry during winter, on snowshoes, a snowmobile, or ice-skates, and learn how to mush a team of huskies.

9. Visit Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, overlooking Frame Lake, and learn about the Northwest Territories' Dene and Inuit history.

10. Go home with a precious reminder of your Yellowknife adventures, in the form of Canadian Arctic Diamonds, mined just a few hundred kilometres away.


Air Canada Jazz, Canadian North, First Air, Air North and Westjet offer daily jet flights to Yellowknife from Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta and from Ottawa, Ontario.

Turtle Miracles on Mon Repos, Southern Great Barrier Reef

In Bundaberg on the Southern Great Barrier Reef between November and March, there is a miracle that takes place nightly on the shores of Mon Repos beach. 

It is the place where over 50% of the entire concentration of nesting loggerhead turtles in the Southern Hemisphere comes to lay their eggs. 

These mumma turtles were born here as long as 80 years ago, hatched from a nest with roughly 100 siblings and made a scramble for the ocean. 

They survived the 1 in 1000 odds of surviving to maturity and now they use the Earth's magnetic field as an internal GPS to find their way back home and repeat the cycle.

Visit the turtles in Bundaberg:

Horse race as highlight of cultural week in Lao Cai

Tourists and local residents will be able to witness a traditional horse race on June 6-7 as part of the Cultural Tourism Week held in Bac Ha District in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai in Vietnam.

Nearly 200 horses will perform in a procession, after which 100 horses will race each other, either in teams or as individuals.

The winning team will be awarded a prize worth 20 million VND (920 USD) and the winning individual will receive 6 million VND (260 USD).

The stadium in the municipal centre can hold up to 5,000 spectators, both tourists and locals alike. Tickets cost 30,000 VND (1.3 USD).

The traditional form of riding without a saddle makes the horse race in Bac Ha all the more fun to watch and spectacular performances are to be expected.

During the war, horse racing was discontinued as jockeys were sent to the battlefields to protect their country’s independence.

In the spring of 1980, a horse race organised by the Bac Ha Military Command brought together more than 50 jockeys from villages all over the district.

Twenty-seven years later, horse racing was officially taken up again as a cultural activity as part of the annual tourism development cooperation programme run by eight north-western provinces.

Bac Ha District is inhabited by 14 ethnic minority groups, predominantly H’Mong, Dao, Tay, and Nung.

More and more visitors are coming to Bac Ha to attend the unique festival, with visitor numbers doubling to 30,000 in 2012 compared to 2009.=

Lao Cai hosted 1,470,000 visitors in 2014, including 545,230 international tourists.

Noosa Long Weekend Festival Expands in 2015

Noosa Long Weekend Festival
The nationally acclaimed Noosa Long Weekend Festival will return this year bigger and better than ever, with the popular event growing from 10 days to 13 to accommodate an expanded program.

With a line-up that includes a special one-off performance by Opera Australia, an evening with the Queensland Ballet and David Williamson's new play Dream Home, Festival Director Ian Mackellar said the event was expected to attract a record crowd.

“Last year's festival was undoubtedly a hard act to follow with more than 10,000 visitors to 35 venues and locations, but we've worked hard to lift the bar even higher in 2015 and are thrilled to have Opera Australia perform a fully staged production of its acclaimed opera The Magic Flute — the last opera ever written by Mozart — to the Sunshine Coast for the first time,” Mr Mackellar said.

“The cast and orchestra will open the festival on Tuesday, 14 July, and will set the stage alive with an Egyptian-themed set and costumes straight from the 1930s.”

Mr Mackellar said other festival highlights included An Evening with the Queensland Ballet led by artistic director Li Cunxin (author of autobiography Mao's Last Dancer), as well as an exclusive performance by internationally acclaimed concert pianist and Steinway artist Julian Gargiulo, direct from New York's Carnegie Hall.

Mr Mackellar said the 2015 Noosa Long Weekend Festival would feature more than 75 events at various locations around Noosa including literature events, forums, live music, theatre performances, interactive art, films, cabaret and supper clubs.

To find out more about the 2015 Noosa Long Weekend Festival or purchase tickets, please visit, call The J booking office on (07) 5329 6560 or visit The J at 60 Noosa Drive, Noosa Junction. You can also follow the festival on Facebook or Twitter.

Special festival accommodation packages can be found on the website or at

Fast facts

13-day festival
75 ticketed and free events
35+ locations around Noosa
260+ nationally and internationally acclaimed actors, writers, artists, musicians, performers, film makers, environmentalists and commentators
9,000+ tickets on sale
Ticket information at


Opera Australia

Prepare to be enchanted, when this new, fully-stage production of The Magic Flutecomes to the Noosa Long Weekend Festival, complete with fabulous 1930s costumes, a chamber orchestra and a vibrant cast of singers. (Also featuring a local/Noosa children's chorus).
7.30pm, Tuesday, 14 July
Noosa Leisure Centre, Wallace Drive Noosaville.

An Evening with the Queensland Ballet

Back by popular demand and a sell-out show, the Queensland Ballet will deliver a program that includes beautiful pas de deux and ensemble work from world-class classical ballets and inspired contemporary dance works.

This specially designed program featuring Queensland Ballet dancers and young artists will give audiences a unique insight into our state ballet company, together with a fascinating conversation with Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin.

7.30pm, Friday, 24 July
The J Theatre, 60 Noosa Drive, Noosa Heads

Dream Home – Written and directed by David Williamson

David Williamson's brand new comedy about the true cost of buying property in Sydney combines an all-star cast from Sydney and Queensland.

Dana and Paul finally have it all: creative careers, a baby on the way and an apartment in Bondi. They can't quite believe their luck. As it turns out, they shouldn't. With an ex-lover, her jealous husband and a kleptomaniac for neighbours, things are bound to get complicated!

2.00pm and 7.30pm – Tuesday, 21 July and Wednesday, 22 July
The J Theatre, 60 Noosa Drive, Noosa Heads

Julian Gargiulo

Combining rigorous Russian conservatory training with an informal style of presenting classical music, Steinway Artist Julian Gargiulo, direct from the USA, has been receiving standing ovations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Whether performing for thousands of people on Singapore's Symphony Stage or Carnegie Hall or for an eclectic group of fifty in the 5th Avenue home of the Avery Fisher's, Julian is able to transmit a unique concert experience to each one present.

7.30pm Saturday 18 July and Sunday 19 July (second show option – subject to demand)
The J Theatre, 60 Noosa Drive, Noosa Heads

“Rob Mills is Surprisingly Good” Supper Club

"Rob Mills is Surprisingly Good" is much more than the standard cabaret fare. 'Millsy' brings us an eclectic mix of music and stories in an intimate setting with a cracking band and the self-deprecating humour that has seen a nation fall in love with him.
Musically, the show is as unpredictable as him, covering artists as far reaching as Taylor Swift, Queen and Pharell, as well as hits from several of the musicals in which he has appeared; The Last Five Years, Legally Blonde, and of course, Wicked. 

8.30pm Thursday, 23 July and Friday, 24 July (second show option – subject to demand)
Berardos Hastings Street, Noosa Heads

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Choc Pot - for lovers of chocolate!

The Choc Pot
Lets admit it, everyone loves chocolate. I know I do. I am a chocaholic. That is why I went with my family to check out the new Choc Pot at the Chatswood Interchange in Sydney Australia. It was the opening weekend of the Vivid light festival, and for the first time, Vivid came to Chatswood.

I was amazed at the array of wonderful desserts on the menu at The Choc Pot. The best part was they all featured chocolate! If I had my way I would always skip mains and head straight to the desserts.

I was after a good time, that is why I was drawn to the dessert listed as "Super Terrific Happy Time" on the menu. It was a delicious home-made crunch waffle with Cranky Pants salted caramel and Belgian chocolate topped with salted caramel fudge pieces and crunchy wafers. The best part was the chocolate, as it tasted like real chocolate. This was because it was real chocolate!

Chocolate Risotto
My wife opted for Mr Souff. The light and fluffy warm soufflé in a ceramic pot came with Mr Cranky Pants salted caramel that was poured over the top. Thumbs up for this chocolate dessert!

Our daughter was attracted to the Chocolate Risotto, which happened to be the Dessert of the Month. The creamy homemade warm chocolate risotto cooked in a slightly zesty spiced vanilla stock came topped with crispy chocolate pearls, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and dark chocolate shavings. It was just the dessert to be warmed up with on the cool evening.

Our son chose The Choc Pot signature dessert - the Choc Pot. It was an eruption of gooey molten chocolate and chocolate cake in a ceramic pot that came with strawberries. I was allowed a (small) spoonful of this decadent warm pudding in a pot and the chocolate taste was awesome. 

Choc Pot
The other desserts we could have chosen were the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae, The Secret Garden, Lord of the Crepes, The Splits, Strawberry Field Waffle, S'More Nuts, Double Dip Fondue for Two, Waffle Bites or the Bread and Butter Pudding. These are all imaginative fun and playful twists on classic dessert favourites, with the main attraction being they all feature wonderful mouth-watering chocolate. There is always something new being added on the menu.

One of the secrets behind why The Choc Pot's desserts are so delicious, is that they are freshly-made by hand when you order them. They come out with just the right texture, and not rubbery or hard from being pre-made and just heated up. The other one is that they use only the best of ingredients, including Callebaut chocolate, Jersey milk and Billington’s sugar. Yes, the chocolate is real chocolate.

Super Terrific Happy Time
The service at The Choc Pot is very good. The friendly serving team actually smile as they take your order and bring it to your table when prepared. 

So as not to overdo it, we just had glasses of water with our desserts. To have the complete chocolate experience we will have to go back again to try their range of hot (tea, chocolate) or cold (milkshakes, floats, smoothies, smashers, iced) drinks.

The Choc Pot came about from Ash & Deej's love and passion for each other and for chocolate. The Choc Pot motto is Live Cheeky. This is reflected in their range of chocolate desserts, the imaginative names they have come up with for them, and the design and decor of The Choc Pot dessert bars. They opened their first dessert bar in Burwood, and have just recently opened the new one at the Chatswood Interchange. To get to it just hop off the train or bus at the Chatswood Interchange, and take the escalator or lift up to The District dining area on the 3rd floor.

A range of Cheeky Pots (that can be either eaten straight from the pot or heated up in a microwave) or  Spreads can be ordered online and picked up from one of the dessert bars.



Location: The District, Level 3 Chatswood Interchange, CHATSWOOD, NSW 2067
Opening Hours: SUN to THURS: 11:00am-10:00pm FRI & SAT : 11:00am-10:30pm


Location: Shop 7 / 1 Railway Parade BURWOOD, NSW 2134
Opening Hours: MON to THURS: 10:00am-10:00pm FRIDAY: 10:00am-11:00pm SATURDAY: 11:00am-11:00pm SUNDAY/PUBLIC HOLIDAYS: 11:00am-10:00pm 

Mr Souff