The Corny Point Lighthouse Shines On

A friend, an avid geo-cacher on a mission to document Australia’s lighthouses, sparked my interest. In 2011, he’s already halfway there, with many stations logged on his site. It’s fascinating to learn that most Australian lighthouses are now automated or even decommissioned. Some stand in their original glory, though not always in the best shape.

However, my postcard – a maxi card – for Thursday Postcard Hunt this week showcases a different story.

The accompanying stamp, a commemorative se-tenant pair from 1986, marks 150 years of South Australian statehood. It features Captain Hindmarsh’s ship, the Buffalo.

The Corny Point Lighthouse, proudly perched on the southernmost tip of Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, is a vision of beauty. Completed in 1882, this limestone marvel, quarried from a nearby farm, is a photographer’s dream. The surrounding area is said to be a haven for camping and picnics – idyllic on a sunny day. But what about the stormy side? I wonder how this beacon cuts through the rain and fog.

De-manned in 1920, the Corny Point light continued its vigil until 1942. Fearing a Japanese invasion, it was temporarily extinguished for several weeks. Finally, in 1978, it embraced the modern age and converted to electricity. Lightkeeper logs, a treasure trove of history, recount the lighthouse weathering earthquakes and other natural phenomena, even witnessing meteors streak across the night sky. Today, the lighthouse reserve welcomes visitors, offering a glimpse into its fascinating past. More about the history and operations of the Corny Point Lighthouse can be found here.

There’s something undeniably romantic and mysterious about lighthouses. Perhaps it’s the stories they hold – tales of brave keepers, harrowing shipwrecks, and even whispers of ghosts. Despite visiting a few lighthouses that, frankly, weren’t as dramatic as I’d imagined, their mystique remains. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to their stories and snatch up any image I find – stamps, postcards, even fleeting glimpses on TV. They hold a magnetic pull, drawing me in with their promise of adventure. I can’t help but conjure images of heroic rescues, dramatic storms, ghostly encounters, and the solitary beacon piercing the darkness.

Life on the Ground: Muddy Marvels and Making Memories

In this week’s My Corner of the World and Skywatch Friday, I’m taking you on a journey back in time to the early 2000s, when I worked in a development project with IDRC in rural Cambodia. The photos you see here were taken during that period, and hopefully gives you a glimpse of the beauty and challenges of life in remote villages during the rainy season, specifically the Kamchai Mear district in Prey Veng province and Damnak Chang’aeur district in Kep province.

Spotted a farmer’s Pajero” conquering the Cambodian highway before we embarked on our own adventure deeper into the countryside.

Back then, there were no fancy, China-built roads. Traveling from Prey Veng town proper to Kamchai Mear was an adventure, to say the least.  Our trusty 4WD, a symbol of progress in that context, would battle its way through mud, potholes big enough to swallow it whole, and the relentless rain. The journey that normally took an hour or so from Prey Veng town proper stretched to three during the rainy season. I’m not kidding.

These pictures showcase the reality of life for rural Cambodians.  The muddy roads became impassable, turning a simple trip to the market or school into an obstacle course, and small businesses faced logistical challenges.  Public transportation was nonexistent, leaving motorbikes and the occasional taxis (usually very old Toyota Camrys) as the only options – options that often got stuck in the mud themselves or getting bogged down, whichever comes first.

The limitations went beyond transportation. Reaching these villages meant a stay of several days and embracing a completely different way of life. There were no hotels, so nights were spent wherever darkness found us. Often, this meant relying on the hospitality of the villagers, offering a space in their house (or even under their house, with the farm animals!) to rest and spend the night. Electricity and running water were luxuries these communities did not have.

One night, we found ourselves welcomed into the home of a kind farmer and his wife. Their hospitality was especially heartwarming because their family included a one-year-old baby. The space was undivided, so we improvised and used a blanket to create a partition for a sense of privacy. That night, however, the baby’s cries shattered the quiet. As it turned out, the little one, likely searching for his mama’s breast in the darkness, had somehow navigated his way right next to where we were all sprawled out! Imagine the scene – a tiny figure crawling between us single women in that cramped space, in the dark! Despite the initial shock and the disrupted sleep (courtesy of a very hungry baby!), we couldn’t help but chuckle about it the next days. Funny, unforgettable experiences like this have a way of melting away the travel difficulties.

On another occasion, the inevitable happened – our 4WD got stuck in the mud. With no other option, we had to slog through the mud on foot, barefoot! To this day, I can still feel and hear the way my feet squished with every step. Washing our feet off immediately was crucial – that clayey mud, if left to dry, would harden like cement on our skin. Nature sometimes calls at the most inconvenient times, and these muddy journeys were no exception. With no toilets in sight, we’d have to disappear into the bushes. Hiding in the bushes with my trusty malong for a makeshift privacy became a skill I never thought I’d need! Let’s just say the fear of encountering snakes during these “bathroom breaks” definitely added a layer of nervous excitement – an experience I wasn’t eager to repeat! Oh, the stories I can tell you!

Despite the challenges, these were some of the most rewarding experiences of my career and the highlight of my time as a development worker. I came equipped with a simple backpack: my trusty malong, a hoodie, socks, and a beanie – my armor against the nighttime creatures, anything that might come crawling at night! But the real essentials were my open ears and a heart ready to listen.

The real treasure of my trips wasn’t the scenery, though it was beautiful in its own rugged way. It was the people. I cherished the opportunity to connect with ordinary folks, listen to their stories, understand their hopes and dreams. I wasn’t there as an expert in farming or fishing, but as a recorder of the community’s story. I documented the dynamics that shaped their lives, the factors that influenced the success or failure of development programs. Just as importantly, I documented their triumphs and struggles, big and small. My job was to be a voice for these people, to amplify their stories and bring them to a wider audience and ensure they were heard.

These experiences in rural Cambodia during the rainy season were a baptism by mud. A crash course in humility, resilience, and the power of human connection. It was a constant reminder of the challenges faced by many around the world, the importance of the work we were doing and listening to the voices of those we aim to help, and the profound impact even small changes can have on people’s lives. 

The photos might showcase the struggles of the rainy season, but for me, they represent the heart of my development work – connecting with people, understanding their lives, and being a part of something bigger than myself. 

Sunday Stamps: Gearing Up for the Games

This week on Sunday Stamps, with the highly anticipated 2024 Paris Olympics approaching, we set our sights on the Northern Hemisphere countries that are participating.

For my entry, here is one iconic stamp from Italy that celebrates athletic prowess and the thrill of competition. It came in a maxicard sent in 2009 by two Italian sisters via Postcrossing, showcasing a summer Olympic sport: cycling!

How cool is that postmark?

Cycling holds a special place in Italian sporting history. From the legendary Fausto Coppi to the modern-day heroes of the Giro d’Italia, Italy has consistently produced champions on two wheels.

This maxicard and matching stamp honour the most successful and popular cyclist of all time, the Italian Fausto Coppi, on his birthday. Both feature a dynamic image of Coppi out-of-the-saddle, powering his bicycle forward with a car following him closely. A majestic mountain range fills the background. This set beautifully captures the exhilaration and competitive spirit of this sport.

Coppi won his first Giro d’Italia in 1940 at age 20 – to this day the youngest ever to do so. He went on to win Giro d’Italia four more times, in 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953. He also won Tour de France two times (1949 and 1952) as well as the World Championship in 1953. Professional cycling races like the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France were the pinnacle events for cyclists during Coppi’s era. The Olympics didn’t feature professional cycling competitions until 1968, well after Coppi’s retirement.

The stamp, issued before 2024 Paris Olympics, serve as a reminder of Italy’s longstanding tradition of participating and excelling in international sporting events. This year, Italian athletes across various disciplines will undoubtedly be vying for glory in Paris.