Augusta Raurica

I went to Basil for a powerlifting competition in mid-March and stayed in a small town just outside Basel called Kaiseraugst. In this town are the remains of the Roman town, Augusta Raurica, which was founded around 15 BC and named after Augustus Caesar and the local Celtic inhabitants, the Raurici. At its height around 100 AD, the town had around 15,000 inhabitants. The surrounding modern town is now called Kaiseraugst (Caesar Augustus) and I stayed in a hotel just across the road from the fortress (see below). I spent an afternoon visiting the ruins of Augusta Raurica, which  has the best-preserved Roman theatre north of the Alps. This theatre once seated between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors.

A short walk from the theatre is the remains of the Roman Forum, where I saw this piece of Roman graffiti carved on the side of one of the columns.

A little further on, are the remains of a shopping district, mostly low remains of walls and foundations, but also the remains of the communal bath-house.  The baths were serviced by water from a well, which had an underground service tunnel. It was possible to descend through this tunnel under the baths to look into the well.

In the late third century AD, under pressure from the Alamanni (German tribes) the Romans withdrew from the territory north of the Rhine river, and August Raurica was on the frontier of the empire. A large fortress nearly a kilometre in length was built on the bank of the Rhine and a Roman Legion was stationed there.

The Rhine River at Kaiseraugst.

Where I am standing to take the above photo is in Switzerland. The other bank is in Germany and a little upstream the other bank becomes France.

Around 351/352 AD, the Alamanni crossed the river and burnt the fortress to the ground. Fearing this might happen, high-ranking officers buried a hoard of silver treasure just inside the walls of the fort (just near where I stood to take the photo below). The treasure comprises silver platters, bowls, tableware and coins made from 58 kg of silver. These items were gifts from the emperor, or family heirlooms collected by one or more officers of the Legion.

Walls of the Caastrum Rauracense, the Roman fortress in Kaiseraugst.

The treasure remained hidden there until it was accidentally unearthed by a bulldozer in 1961. It contains 270 objects made of pure silver and weighing 58 kg, it is one of the largest ancient silver hoards ever found.

I saw it on display in the Roman Museum next to the Roman theatre.

In the second half of the 5th century, the Romans lost control over their provinces north of the Alps. With the rise of the Alemannic settlement of Basel in the 7th century, Kaiseraugst dwindled to become a small fishing village.

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Canoeing in the Noosa Everglades

While visiting Noosa in July, I took my two boys on a kayak trip into the Noosa Everglades.  Located in the Great Sandy National Park, the upper reaches of the Noosa River are a network of waterways, rivers, lakes and marshes and are best explored by kayak or canoe. The Everglades are situated in the Noosa Biosphere, which is one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems and includes more than 40 per cent of the country’s bird species.

We drove about 20 km from Noosa to Booreen Point on Lake Cootharaba and crossed the lake in a larger boat to the mouth of the Upper Noosa River, where we changed to canoes, and continued into the Everglades by canoe. Lake Cootharaba is one of three large lakes connected to the Noosa River, the others are Lake Cooroibah and Lake Weyba.

Lake Cootharaba

The banks of the river are a mix of swampy grassland and subtropical forest, with patches of rainforest. There are lots of banksia trees and tea-trees. The tea-trees stain the water a deep brown colour from the tannin in their leaves. The Tea Tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, is an Australian native plant, and its leaves are also used to produce tea-tree oil, prized for its it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal prowess.

Upper Noosa River

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Hot and cold: from New Year in heatwave Australia to mid-winter Geneva

Somewhat belatedly, a few photos from a quick trip to Australia in the New Year break 2016-2017 to visit my family in Noosa on the Queensland coast.  Flying from the midwinter Geneva around zero C to heatwave in the middle of summer – middle 30s C and then back to a cold spell at -4 C. Around 35°C temperature drop from my last Saturday on Sunshine Beach to the first day in Geneva.

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Even though it was hot, there were some stormy days and some dark clouds on Noosa Main Beach. It was much more crowded when the sun was out.

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Fraser Island – largest sand island in the world

While in Australia in July, we hired a 4WD for a trip to Fraser Island, largest sand island in the world. From Noosa, it was a 50 km drive on Cooloola Beach to Rainbow Bay, then across to Fraser Island by barge to drive up 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side.

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Waiting at Rainbow Beach for the barge to cross to Fraser Island.

Early morning light on 75 Mile Beach

Early morning light on 75 Mile Beach

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Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls

When I was in Harare in April 2000, I  took a day to go to Victoria Falls (victoria-falls-and-the-zambesi-river). When I saw the bungee jump off the bridge across the Zambesi Gorge below the falls, I had to do it. This is arguably the best bungee jump in the world, with a 111 metre plummet (nearly 400 feet) towards the Zambezi. The short video below is taken from an old VHS tape of my two jumps. That’s me after the 15 second intro.

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Victoria Falls and the Zambesi River

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Victoria Falls

Some years ago, I was in Harare, Zimbabwe, for a WHO meeting and took the opportunity to make a flying visit to Victoria Falls, about a one hour flight away. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft),[ resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls.

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