The Heartbreak of Valparaiso

 photo IMG_4938_zps980a008a.jpgThe following story was published in todays local paper, its titled,The Heartbreak of Valparaiso, I rather think of it as Ana,s Story.

To refresh the readers mind, my wife Ana was born in Valparaiso Chile,we married in the beautiful harbour port of Valparaiso when I spent a few months over there back in 2009.

Chile is renowned for its earthquakes, however raging fires are not uncommon.

The grand city of Valparaiso is built on the the coast and was a major shipping route in the 18th century, its harbour being dotted with three masted schooners from many nations.

The hills surrounding the port are dotted with many colourful homes that have developed a style and culture of their own.

I give you Ana,s story, or as published, The Heartbreak of Valparaiso.

CHILEAN-born national and now Mildura resident Ana Cristina Corvalyn Lyng Felton has told some heart-breaking stories of repeated natural disasters in her birth city of Valparaiso in the wake of the latest fire that has claimed at least 15 lives and destroyed more than 2000 homes.

Ana said that because of the way most of hilly Valpariaso has been settled, squatter-style, fire had always been its biggest threat, although it had also been hit by earthquakes.

She still has family there, and thankfully they are out of harm’s way, but the fire that has been raging out of control this week has claimed many lives, left 8000 people homeless and continues to threaten much of this Pacific Ocean seaport of 255,000, just 70 kilometres from the capital Santiago.

Ana described this week’s fire as the worst in recent history, but the worst ever was in 1953, when a massive explosion and fire claimed the lives of 32 volunteer firemen, as well as other civilian life.

Ana, 64, married in 1971 and left Valparaiso in 1973, before the military coup, but , but has been back several times to visit family and friends, with her most recent trip being last year, when she had an extended three-month holiday.

If anything, she says, the problem of haphazard prefabricated illegal housing on the 42 hills of the city is getting worse, putting much of the city under threat. The problem is exacerbated by the wooden and corrugated iron shacks, lack of water or sewer connections, no fire hydrants and streets too narrow for emergency vehicles.

Chile’s armed services have been called in to help, as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft continue to dump millions of litres of water on the firefront and smouldering ruins of whole neighbourhoods.

Ana said the problem is also made worse because of the strong gusty winds which are a regular weather feature of Valparaiso. Firefighters have already described the raging inferno in some neighbourhoods as creating their own winds, further adding to the problem. Experts have estimated it could take up to three weeks to bring the fires under control.

The city is under military rule as 5000 firefighters, police, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors and civil defence workers joined forces to fight the fires. All vehicles with the exception of emergency vehicles have been banned from streets leading to the worst-affected areas of this world heritage-listed region.

Ana, now married to Mildura’s Ian Felton and a Mildura resident for the past four years, said she has been keeping in touch with family and friends via social media.

“Thankfully, they are well away from the danger areas, but the situation for many people is heartbreaking,” she said. “These people have nowhere else to go. Up in the hills was the only place they could afford to build, they live in the most basic shanties in primitive conditions with lack of proper facilities, but it’s the only life they know.”

Born and raised in Valparaiso, Ana married and left Chile with her Canadian-born husband just 10 days before the 1973 coup that brought the leader of the military junta, Augusto Pinochet, to power. She lived in Canada until 1992, helping her husband build up a successful construction business in California and Canada before they divorced.

Ana, by now fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English – and with a good grasp of Porteguse, took the opportunity to travel the world, spending time in North and South America, Eusope, Africa, the Caribbean, Thailand and Malaysia before meeting Ian through a close friend via the social media, leading to Ian’s first visit to Chile in 2009, and their subsequent wedding. Ian spent almost four months in Valparaiso, and has many fond memories of the colourful city, and its Bohemian-style ‘army’ of artists, painters and writers.

They have since made their home in Mildura, travel to some interesting and exciting in Victoria and interstate, but Ana said that should anything happen to Ian she would have no hesitation in packing up and returning to her country of birth.

In the meantime she will continue hoping and praying for the safety of the residents of Valparaiso in the wake of yet another modern-day natural disaster.

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


Captain Mackenzie

A couple of years back, Ana and I went for a trip down into the back country of Victoria.

We spent a few days up in the cold high mountain country of Victoria, where the vegetation takes on a complete change from the normal dry arid parts of the lowlands.

Ferns growing well over six feet tall, clear mountain streams, abundance of wildlife such as Lyrebirds, Wombats, Rock Wallabies, Echidnas and mountain ash trees covered with native birds, all serenading the clear blue sky with a melody that only nature can create.

On the way home we crossed the wheatbelt area of Victoria, vast wheatfields running as far as the eye could see, a dry road that seemed to have no ending.

We took a back road that was to be a shorter route to the next town, but the road kept on going and going, somewhere along the road there was a sign pointing to Captain Mackenzies cave.

Now being an inquisitive adventurer I knew I had to follow it up.

We turned of the bitumen road and started on a rough dry and sandy track, the GPS system advising us that they were no longer responsible for our whereabouts or safety.

We followed the track for a number of miles with the petrol gauge also advising us that it would no longer be responsible for where we ended up.

We finally arrived at a large outcrop of massive boulders that stretched for miles.

These were’nt small boulders, as some were the sizes of houses, overlapping and holding each other up.

We explored the area until we located Captain Mackenzies cave, a small cave beneath a massive boulder that was resting on a much smaller boulder, I entered the cave which was nothing more than a crawl space that could hold only one or two persons who would want to hide from the law.

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 photo Photo0020_zps37e53c3d.jpgCaptain Mackenzies Cave beneath the Boulders

I have to now digress a little from my story, and and go back into history, the story of Captain Mackenzie goes back into the early goldrush days of Victoria, the 1800s.

Gold was found in many places in Victoria, creating a gold rush that equalled those of America and the noted Yukon.

Australia was a new country, many people deserted their paid jobs in the cities to race to the gold fields, soldiers deserted, whole ships crews deserted, including their captains, leaving ships at moor in the harbours.

Many of those who fled to the goldfields did actually find gold and prospered, many did not and turned to crime, what we call bushrangers is called highway robbery in England, homesteads were raided, coaches were pulled up at the point of pistols with the words bail up.

Many bushrangers roamed the the highways and byways leading from the Goldfields.

Bushrangers who took to highway robbery and the outlaw life, appear to be those ex miners whose fortunes went sour on the goldfields, and may have had no family commitments or future.

Gold was a big part of life in those early Australian days, especially in Victoria.

The worlds largest gold nugget was found near Moliagul, Dunolly Victoria in 1869, it weighed between 2284 and 2380 ounces, a great incentive for bushranging back in those days.

 photo Welcome-Stranger_zpsdeea0b38.jpg

The Welcome Stranger

This nugget is the largest known to date in Victoria and was found on the 5th of February 1869, approximately 15 kilometres to the northwest of Dunolly, near a mining town called Moliagul. The finder, John Deason, and a companion Richard Oates located the nugget 3 centimetres below the surface within the roots of a stringybark tree. The nugget weighed 2316 troy ounces* (about 72 kg) and at the time of discovery was the largest known gold nugget in the world, measuring 60 by 45 by 19 centimetres. The site of discovery is marked by a stone monument.

Now back to Captain Mackenzie and his cave.

I researched Captain Mackenzie and cannot find any information on him, I did find a Captain Mackenzie who was a skipper of a ship at that time, so now I will use literary licence and my imagination on the rest of the story as I see it unfolding.

Captain Mackenzie failed on the goldfields as many others of the time did as well, he took to bushranging, he had no ship to go back to as it was commandeered by the government at the time for being deserted in Port Phillip bay.

His exploits saw him raiding homesteads and holding up coaches on the goldfields roads, sometimes in company and sometimes alone.

He was tracked throughout the Victorian ranges, notably the Strathbogie ranges where he had numerous hideouts.

In the late 1800s the law gave up on pursuing Captain Mackenzie.

The case was closed and Captain Mackenzie disappeared into the chronicles of Australian History.

Or did he ?

Church records of the Moliagul gold fields era church in the late 1800s show a Captain Mackbride marrying a Sarah Hancock from Dublin Ireland

 photo MoliagulChurch_zps628c2455.jpgMoliagul Church

Fact or fiction ?


Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Worlds Poorest President

Jose Mujica: The world’s ‘poorest’ president

By Vladimir Hernandez BBC Mundo, Montevideo

Jose Mujica and his dogs outside his home

It’s a common grumble that politicians’ lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president – who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.

President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.

The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.

This austere lifestyle – and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity – has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

“I’ve lived like this most of my life,” he says, sitting on an old chair in his garden, using a cushion favoured by Manuela the dog.

“I can live well with what I have.”

His charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month.

President Mujica's VW Beetle

All the president’s wealth – a 1987 VW Beetle

In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

This year, he added half of his wife’s assets – land, tractors and a house – reaching $215,000 (£135,000).

That’s still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori’s declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica’s predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.

Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.

He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.

Tupamaros: Guerrillas to government

Jose Mujica - in silhouette - speaking at a rally to commemorate the formation of the Frente Amplio

  • Left-wing guerrilla group formed initially from poor sugar cane workers and students

  • Named after Inca king Tupac Amaru

  • Key tactic was political kidnapping – UK ambassador Geoffrey Jackson held for eight months in 1971

  • Crushed after 1973 coup led by President Juan Maria Bordaberry

  • Mujica was one of many rebels jailed, spending 14 years behind bars – until constitutional government returned in 1985

  • He played key role in transforming Tupamaros into a legitimate political party, which joined the Frente Amplio (broad front) coalition

“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says.

“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: “We’ve been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.

“But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

“Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.”

Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”.

Mujica could have followed his predecessors into a grand official residence

But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.

“Many sympathise with President Mujica because of how he lives. But this does not stop him for being criticised for how the government is doing,” says Ignacio Zuasnabar, a Uruguayan pollster.

The Uruguayan opposition says the country’s recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education, and for the first time since Mujica’s election in 2009 his popularity has fallen below 50%.

This year he has also been under fire because of two controversial moves. Uruguay’s Congress recently passed a bill which legalised abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. Unlike his predecessor, Mujica did not veto it.

President Mujica's house

Instead, he chose to stay on his wife’s farm

He is also supporting a debate on the legalisation of the consumption of cannabis, in a bill that would also give the state the monopoly over its trade.

“Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem,” he says.

However, he doesn’t have to worry too much about his popularity rating – Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.

When he does, he will be eligible for a state pension – and unlike some other former presidents, he may not find the drop in income too hard to get used to.


Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


Welcome to Australia


Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


Organic Gardening

Each October, Ana and I start planting for our summer crop of vegetables, not all our efforts bear fruit. We invested in a raised garden bed, a great idea for those keen gardeners who suffer from back problems, in my case a number of shattered discs.

Each year we plant lots of tomatoes, all types including lovely cherry tomatoes of different colours which are great tasting straight from the vine. Organically grown and these three pics give you some idea of our crop , so far this year

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 photo IMG_8813_zpsb32dfbec.jpgThis last picture is of a little green frog that has been visiting our garden over a couple of months.

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I have not really mastered my camera which I have had for about ten years now, my efforts at night photography and close ups have had varied results, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of my frog picture, the detail is quite clear.

Cheers and a happy new year to all my wordpress friends



Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


Aussie Emu—- wishing all Dogs a Merry Christmas


Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


A Beautiful and Joyous Christmas to You All

A beautiful and Joyous Christmas to all my friends on WordPress.

I thank you for your visits and comments on my Aussie Emu site.

I value everyone of you, and your friendship is special, that is why my list of followers is small.

I wish you one and all a beautiful , peaceful and happy season.

A season of good health, happiness and lots of love.

Your friend

Aussie Emu

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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

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