travel

the far side

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Hindsight… Throughout the past dozen years of my city living – highrise dwelling – office life I dreamed of a gypsy-like roadtrip around Australia and simple country life. A year later, living my dream life in reality I can report it’s nothing like I thought. Some aspects have been far more difficult, others far more wonderful.

my-gypsy-self free camping in a riverbed
my-gypsy-self free camping in a riverbed aka Barradale Rest Area off the North West Coastal Highway of Western Australia

For instance, my blog blurb states “Part of that dream is also to hook up a caravan to our ute and explore Australia.” It once also had the words “and blog about it as we go” tagged on the end. When it came to life on the road I couldn’t manage productive online time, only a single life as art blog post from Broome, NT on 12 August; 59 days into our trip, coincidentally the half way point.

I did manage 118 days -the duration of our travels around Australia- of Instagram posts. My fellow Instagrammers were marvellous company throughout the trip and provided welcome constancy and connection to balance my ever-changing days.

In planning and setting off on our trip we never had a fixed route-timetable. As a mud-map we were following a motorcycle ride the G.O. had done from Darwin to Perth via Broome over 40 years earlier and revisiting a short holiday we’d taken together in 2007 to Broome & Darwin.

We estimated we’d be away for three-four-maybe five months dependent on ennui, funds, weather. As it turned out all those factors became connected and under consideration as we left the north of the west coast and the dry season to encounter an unusually long, cold Australian winter season firmly entrenched down south.

From Broome, we journeyed in a southerly direction -along the far side of Australia- following the West Coast to Perth, across South Australia to Victoria where a stopover in Portland connected our travels to the trip we did in March.

An additional -unconsidered- factor turned out to be the G.O.’s bad knee which has worsened over the years and ultimately hit its tipping point via a long sunset walk along Cable Beach at Broome completed a little too quickly as daylight rapidly diminished. It was going to happen eventually but the timing was unfortunate. Despite him stoically nursing the injury it became apparent in combination with the other factors it was nigh time to head home, and save leisurely exploration of the south for a future trip.

Below is a selection of photos from the second leg of our trip.

01-eighty-mile-beach-wa
Just south of Broome, WA is Eighty Mile Beach. 129 kilometres of waves, sand and shells. A Must Do for fisher-people, beach bums and shell seekers.
02-dampier-wa
There’s no doubt that Red Dog (of the Pilbara) c. 1971 – 21 November 1979 featured in the 2011 film of the same name is well-loved. His statue in Dampier, WA is shiny & smooth from being stroked. We contributed our pats.
03-cape-range-national-park-exmouth-wa
A regular refrain on our trip was Let’s Just Have a Look. Which is how we came to explore the previously unknown to us and stunning but chilly-on-the-day Cape Range National Park near Exmouth WA.
04-carnarvon-wa
Feeling very much at home among the bananas. Proximity and availability -in August- of fresh tropical produce via farm gate stalls made Carnarvon, WA a foodie highlight.
05-wildfowers-wa
Did we see the famous Western Australia springtime wildflowers? Couldn’t miss them!
06-monkey-mia-wa
However, we almost missed Monkey Mia, WA because I didn’t connect its location with nearby town Denham and the legendary Shark Bay. Which would’ve been a shame as it is one of our of Must Return To places.
07-kalbarri-wa
Nor had we heard of Kalbarri National Park, WA famous for its coastline and wildflowers. Unmissable thanks to our fellow travellers.
08-bon-scott-rip-feeemantle-wa
Never too old or too late for hero-worship. Ignoring imperfect Perth weather we paid our respects at the final resting place in nearby Freemantle of Bon Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980) a Scottish-born Australian rock musician, best known for being the lead singer and lyricist of Australian hard rock band AC/DC. R.I.P.
09-watershed-winery-margaret-river-wa
Western Australia’s south offered many redeeming features as solace to the unseasonable season. The charms of Margaret River and Watershed Winery & Restaurant outshone inclement weather.
10-southern-wa
After enjoying the hospitality of Glenda & Maureen our friends of the Passion Fruit Garden blog, in beautiful Bridgetown, WA, we had a taste of the majesty of the native forests around the South Western Highway for which we will make a future return trip.
11-the-great-australian-bight-sa
A roadtrip across the Nullarbor rates high on the traveller To-Do List along with the Great Australian Bight, en route. Standing in this spot was a trophy moment.
12-kimba-sa
A.A. Milne’s Halfway Down poem jumped into my head at Kimba, SA halfway across Australia “It isn’t really Anywhere! It’s somewhere else Instead!”
13-in-maggies-kitchen-barossa-valley-sa
Another wild wet weather day another pilgrimage… Maggie Beer’s Kitchen (location of the TV series The Cook & The Chef) in the Barossa Valley, SA was warm and dry.
14-port-eliot-sa
Suitably stormy weather on the Fleurieu Peninsula, SA for a family history mission from Dad to find Currency Creek Cemetery and the grave (far LHS) of Herbert Newling Barker who died 1881 aged 11 years 8 months. R.I.P.
15-western-victoria
No point in attempting to outrun the weather, the journey and destination became one along the western volcanic plains and Victoria’s Princes Highway, home to numerous and impressive networks of dry stone walls.
16-portarlington-victoria
Batten down the hatches part 2 in Portarlington, Victoria. A week earlier we’d been in the midst of the controversial #adelaidestorm. Throughout it all the nannavan didn’t leak a drop.
17-gundagai-nsw
Dog lovers, we couldn’t drive past the statue of the Dog On The Tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai, NSW inspired by a bullock drover’s poem, Bullocky Bill, which celebrates the life of an allegorical drover’s dog that loyally guarded the man’s tuckerbox (lunchbox) until death.
18-taylors-arm-nsw
Day 118: the home straight into Taylors Arm village lined with flowering Paulownia trees and fat cattle.

Trip synopsis:
Departed Taylors Arm: 15 June 2016
Arrived Taylors Arm: 10 October 2016
Distance Travelled: 24000+ kilometres
At our first fuel-up at Dalby, Queensland the speedo read 160112 kilometres.
In between we travelled through the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria.
Our last fuel-up was at Pheasants Nest, NSW where the speedo read 180390 kilometres.

broome-to-lochinvar
The second leg: Broome to our last stopover at Dad’s in Lochinvar before driving the very familiar 360 kilometres of Pacific Highway north to Taylors Arm.

“Hindsight, I think, is a useless tool. We, each of us, are at a place in our lives because of innumerable circumstances, and we, each of us, have a responsibility (if we do not like where we are) to move along life’s road, to find a better path if this one does not suit, or to walk happily along this one if it is indeed our life’s way. Changing even the bad things that have gone before would fundamentally change who we are, and whether or not that would be a good thing, I believe, it is impossible to predict. So I take my past experiences… and try to regret nothing. -Drizzt Do’urden”
R.A. Salvatore, Sea of Swords

We’ve been home for two four six eight busy weeks, and pencilled in a staycation to recover from our holiday and its aftermath. Future blog posts [under my new daleleelife101.blog banner] and visits are in the pipeline but in the meantime for glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.

*The Far Side was a single-panel cartoon series, often surreal and anthropomorphic, created by Gary Larsen that was syndicated internationally to over 1,900 newspapers from 1980 for fifteen years.

P.S. If you think of it, would you please advise via Comments if this blog post appeared via email notification or in your Reader, as since changing to .blog it didn’t appear in my Reader until I unfollowed then followed. Thank you.

 

life as art

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Greetings from one of my favourites places… Broome, Western Australia, where we’ve made ourselves at home for a week enjoying an ensuite caravan park site with bonus shady mango tree, lawn and sprinkler!

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Of our 59 days on the road to date most have had merit enough to render them a highlight… the G.O. and I have been, seen, experienced a variety of wonderful. Things people often comment are “once in a lifetime”. As one of the motivations for this trip is revisiting our brief Broome-Darwin highlights 2007 holiday, I don’t buy it for a minute, if somewhere-something is that good -all going to plan- we just might be back.

That is also by way of explanation why you haven’t until now seen a blog post from me and only adhoc visits to your blogs during our trip. It’s an art in itself, living this life on the road. What, if any, later art it manifests, who knows? It’s certainly transforming in subtle ways, and I can literally feel & see myself reshaping.

Last Sunday was one of several quiet days we planned to spend at Derby, Western Australia, after making our way across W.A. and a long, lovely day exploring the wonderful Bungle Bungles. But in a quirky way our Sunday turned out to be not quiet & quite memorable.

On Saturday we arrived, set up, ate lunch, washed clothes and ducked off to the mud crab races for a beer… as you do… before taking in the sunset at Derby Jetty. In passing we noticed the camper we’d parked alongside was the same one as we were next to a few days earlier at Wyndham. Easy to recognise the giant purple snail and name Max scribed boldly across it.

Also as you do, on Sunday morning we got chatting to these neighbours, who proposed an afternoon of fishing on the jetty. Why not, so we cobbled together our gear and joined the congregation enjoying the balmy north W.A. dry season weather doing the same thing. No-one caught much but the ambiance and sunset created a kind of magic.

So, should I have been surprised when chatting to our neighbours to find we have much in common including for B and I our day of birth? Calculating time-place difference, I’m the elder by about 16 hours. Or that B & Aquaman and Tanya & Al we encountered photographing the sunset are bloggers also? Their blogs are maxthesnailcom and Four Corners Australia. Or during the impromptu acoustic jam session of the same evening in the camp kitchen we’d meet travellers from Macksville, the small town nearest our village of Taylors Arm?

Yes, but with the kind of delight that comes from receiving marvellous unexpected gifts.

For glimpses of our travels you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.

Not lacking for blog inspiration & ideas, I began compiling a blog post for the first -Queensland- leg of our trip several weeks ago during our Darwin, Northern Territory stopover, which I’ll complete in due course. Since, we’ve moved further across another state. But I find the practical application of it somewhat distracting from the actual travel. However, below is a selection of photos from the last 58 days. Which in the meantime will suffice, I hope.

Mackay, North Queensland where we visited talltalesfromchiconia‘s Kate & Mr C.

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Townsville, North Queensland looking towards the very attractive Magnetic Island

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Kronosaurus Korner at Richmond, Outback Queensland where dinosaurs once swam

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Our neigh-bours at Mt Isa, Outback Queensland

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Retail therapy outback style at Daly Waters, Northern Territory

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Up close and incredibly loud at Nitro Up North, Darwin, NT

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Mindil Beach Markets, Darwin NT, the place to be on a Sunday evening

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Everyone loves a sunset at Mindil Beach, Darwin, NT

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We’re fans of markets big and small… Dundee Beach, NT

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During our 2007 trip we saw Arnhem Land, NT from the air, this time on the ground

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A view from a bridge… Victoria River, Gregory/Judburra National Park, NT…the G.O. rode a motorcycle across over 40 years ago

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Dusty… Kununurra Rodeo, WA

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Heading west, WA… we see a lot of this

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A big, blue jewel in the Kimberley… Lake Argyle, WA

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Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham, WA on the Cambridge Gulf where the Ord, Pentecost, Durack, King and Forrest rivers come together

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The Domes, 360 million years old, part of the Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park,WA… worth an 180 kilometre rough dirt road side trip

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Another day another magic sunset… Derby Jetty, WA

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Broome’s Gantheume Point where dinosaurs once roamed, looking towards Cable Beach, WA

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“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” Anita Desai

From Broome, we’ll resume our journey in a southerly direction following the coast towards Perth, slowly towards Taylors Arm, NSW marked with the yellow star.

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south of the border

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Dearth of sombreros and painted mules notwithstanding, in Australia people resident in a more southerly state location are often collectively & somewhat cheekily referred to as “Mexicans”. There’s longstanding rivalries between the states, one of the keenest being between my home state of NSW and the state adjoining its southern border, Victoria, where the elder of my younger sisters now resides.

01 Lake Tyers Beach_E
Top ten photos: Getting off to a good start, our first stop in Victoria at Lake Tyers, East Gippsland

Planning our year off, the G.O. and I pencilled in a visit to my south of the border sister for March 2016 to give us a break from moving and settling into our home at Taylors Arm.

02 St Kilda Pier sunset_E
Top ten photos: A perennial favourite. St Kilda Pier, Melbourne, at sunset

When the opportunity arose to join a blogger meet up in Melbourne we shuffled schedules and set off in late February. It also let us try out ourselves & our caravan on a shorter trip before embarking on a longer trip scheduled for mid-year.

03 Walking from Barwon Heads to Ocean Grove_E
Top ten photos: Walking from Barwon Heads to The Dunes café at Ocean Grove, Victoria

Having not done so before I accomplished packing the van remarkably efficiently without the G.O.’s belated advice to distribute the contents and thus the weight evenly.

04 Some of the Apostles, Great Ocean Road_E
Top ten photos: The Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria… If we had a bucket list, this would have been on it

We took away a few lessons from the trip: turn the fridge on early… ours came good about the time we arrived at my sister’s 5 days into the trip; fellow caravanners are great sources of information from where to stay, the mysteries of awnings, optimum tyre pressures, accessories necessary & not, and introduced us to that unique caravan park spectator sport – watching new arrivals reverse into a camping space.

Top ten photos: Contemplating the Shipwreck Coast, Great Ocean Road, Peterborough, Victoria
Top ten photos: Contemplating the Shipwreck Coast, Great Ocean Road, Peterborough, Victoria

We set off with a route in mind but thanks to many wonderful travel tips, abundant attractions throughout the state of Victoria and learning to balance distance & duration, our itinerary evolved as did our conversance with caravan lifestyle.

06 Portland_E
Top ten photos: So far from home, feeling so much at home. Portland, Victoria

My mantra as the trip progressed became “I can do this”. Since our December 2015 move from city to country & employed to unemployed, the complexion of my life had changed from city skyscraper office dweller to… flux. Much of what I had been good at professionally was irrelevant.

07 Halls Gap and The Grampians_E
Top ten photos: I can do this… walk.. climb… View of Halls Gap, The Grampians, Victoria from Boroka Lookout

About two-thirds the way through our travels, late on a warm night under starry skies camped at Wentworth next to the Darling River I had an epiphany while wandering along the track in the direction of the shower block, carrying my towel & toiletry bag… Life is good.

08 Murray River, Ned's Corner_E
Top ten photos: Camped on the Murray River, Ned’s Corner, Victoria

During the trip I experienced a real sense of accomplishment & enjoyment from adapting and stretching my literal & figurative comfort zones -physical activities to communal amenities- necessary for full participation in Australian travel on the road.

09 The Mallee_E
Top ten photos: The Mallee, Victoria… somewhere on the road between Halls Gap and Mildura

With that first trip and some essential maintenance work on our house behind us we’re now packing and preparing to set off shortly on our next, more challenging travel adventure, caravanning around the northern and western states of Australia.

Top ten photos: Where the Murray and Darling rivers meet, Victoria & NSW
Top ten photos: Where the Murray and Darling rivers meet, Victoria & NSW

Our Victoria trip route, 22 February to 22 March 2016 (late summer into unusually warm early autumn):

Getting there
Getting there: Taylors Arm, NSW to Portland, Victoria. Photo credit: Google Maps (source)
Getting back
Getting back: Portland, Victoria to Taylors Arm, NSW. Photo credit: Google Maps (source)

 

11 I'll keep your seat warm
Soossie-Cat: Off you go, I’ll keep your seat warm

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
[asked Alice]

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’
said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where -‘
said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’
said the Cat.

‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE’…”
[said Alice]

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Copyright Dale Newling 2016. All content on https://elladeewords.wordpress.com is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of the owner who can be contacted via email dln011 [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au.

 

carved in stone

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Each workday from my desk (courtesy of a recent fortuitous reshuffle) I now gaze at a reminder of the way my and the G.O.’s  ancestors arrived in this country. By ship. Through Sydney Heads. For me it’s a reminder of how fortunate he and I are that they did.

Sydney Harbour, and Heads in the distance... vista through glass which at 29 floors up gets a little grimy in between window cleaner visits!
Sydney Harbour, and Heads in the distance… vista through glass which at 29 floors up gets a little grimy in between window cleaner visits!

Four of the G.O.’s ancestors came on convict ships of the Second and Fourth Fleet, and were part of the very early settling of Australia. For several generations there was an inclination for people to overlook or hide their convict heritage. Fortunately, no longer, as evidenced by an intrepid stonemason Ray Collins who with ancestors on both the First Fleet and Second, created the monuments and the First and Second Fleet Memorial Gardens at Wallabadah in country NSW.

“The First Fleet Memorial Gardens consist of eleven circular gardens, representing the ships of the First Fleet approaching a large garden in the shape of Australia. A winding cobblestone path connects the Gardens, each of which has a number of surrounding sandstone tablets inscribed with the names of the persons who sailed on that ship.

Within each garden is a stone tablet featuring the name and a pictorial sketch of that particular ship. The Second Fleet Gardens consist of two gardens with stone tablets arranged by ship. Both gardens have interpretative signage largely drawn from the logs and memoirs of the participants.

These gardens are dedicated to the sailors, marines, spouses, children, convicts and free men of the First & Second Fleets. The Gardens tell the story of both these voyages and the early settlement of Sydney largely in the words of those who participated.

The interpretative signs and the content were done by Neil McGarry & Associates.”

I encountered a link to information on these gardens late last year when dabbling in some Google based family history research, shared it with the G.O. and promptly forgot about it, until en route to Tamworth late in August to celebrate our anniversary. As part of our scenic route roadtrip along the New England Highway we were approaching the village of Wallabadah both of us reminiscing about other times we’d passed through. Bing! I remembered the gardens just as we were coming up to the turn off. The G.O. obviously having paid little attention earlier, had no idea of why I was asking him to turn off but accommodating adventurous as he is, he did.

Other of my and the G.O.’s ancestors came to Australia as free settlers and assisted migration via ships from the United Kingdom and Europe; precursors to what has become known as the Fifth Fleet fleeing post-war Europe and Asia, and ongoing immigration and seeking of asylum. All of which contributes to the legacy of our wonderful multicultural country, so with due and fair process we can share and share it again.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”
Martin Luther king, Jr

hop, skip and jump to the point

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I could get used to this. The G.O. not working on Saturdays, and spending time by the water.

Last Friday when the G.O. communicated the news he has at last finished working at the site where he’s been doing 160 kilometre daily round trip commutes, often working Saturday, I called my sister to see if she and our new niece, sunny Skye apple of her family’s eye, had a free Saturday. Not quite, but could meet up in the afternoon.

Excellent. That meant we didn’t have to rush our trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley. And could take up a recommendation from a work colleague who’s a local, to stop for breakfast from the Estuary Kiosk on the way.

An hour drive and about half way along our journey, only minutes from the M1 motorway exit, Estuary Restaurant is at Kangaroo Point just over the old bridge and first turn to the left on the Old Pacific Highway on the Hawkesbury River driving towards Brooklyn. The restaurant has scored some spectacular reviews… currently some spectacularly bad… so we’ll be giving it a miss until that’s ironed out, but our takeaway coffees and bacon and egg rolls from the kiosk were first-rate. The refurbished park area is attractive and the views are amazing. We’ll be back!

We love the Hawkesbury River. The G.O. has a long affection for the area as he worked an oyster barge on the river for a few years, and still says it was the best job he ever had. Nearby Brooklyn is a favourite for fish and chips or meeting up for family celebratory lunches at Lifeboat Seafood, handy for us as we can catch the train from the city.

The Hawkesbury River is the setting for the 2004 Australian film The Oyster Farmer and recently the two-part ABC television mini-series The Secret River adaptation of Kate Grenville’s novel of the same name.

“This place had been here long before him. It would go on sighing and breathing and being itself after he had gone, the land lapping on and on, watching, waiting, getting on with its own life.” Kate Grenville, The Secret River

Elementary, my dear Watson

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Trying to get the G.O. to celebrate his birthday is like trying to prise a stubborn crab out of its hidey-hole. Unsurprising as he is born under the Cancerian astrological sign. For the first time ever I managed to persuade him to ditch work on a weekday birthday. Coercion that involved me using a precious annual leave day and suggesting he wouldn’t want me to celebrate his birthday on my own. It worked. Just. My backup tactic was to suggest if he didn’t stay home with me, I’d go to work with him.

As work commitments prevented us taking a long weekend away the G.O.’s celebration of choice was a coastal escape within the city environs.

After a sleep-in, leisurely coffees and gift unwrapping in bed we followed the route of my usual morning commute to Circular Quay, even making a dash to the cafe in my building for a soy chai latte & hot chocolate before joining Tuesday tourists and day-trippers on a ferry ride across Sydney Harbour to Watsons Bay, a 17 minute trip as opposed to the other public transport option of bus that takes near an hour to cover the 11 km distance.

Watsons Bay is located on the southern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. To the east is the Tasman Sea and to the west is the Harbour with a glorious view of the city of Sydney in the distance.

Watsons Bay is where Governor Phillip first landed in Australia. It’s also recognised as Australia’s oldest fishing village, having been established in 1788.

The Bay is famous for being the home of the first Doyles Restaurant. The site on which the restaurant now stands is where Doyle originally sold his daily fish catch in 1845. It’s well worth the trip to Watsons Bay to eat at the restaurant or, alternatively, for a more informal meal, buy a take-away lunch from Doyles’ fish and chip outlet, located on the wharf, and eat it in the park and feed the seagulls.

There are two walking paths from the wharf, both require around one hour for the round trip. From the wharf you can walk north past Lady Bay (see their nude beach) and on to South Head…”

And we did just that, walked around to the north looking across to Manly, didn’t see any nudists although the day was a pleasant and sunny 20 degrees Celsius (winter in Sydney at its best!), enjoyed a simple fish and chip lunch accompanied by attentive seagulls, postprandial strolled until the sun enticed us to a garden bench with a harbour view before a speedy afternoon return on the ferry to Circular Quay.

Despite widely being attributed to him, Sherlock Holmes never said those words “Elementary, my dear Watson” but no doubt he would have by way of approbation of the G.O.’s excellent choice of destination of the same name.

*The first known, or at least recorded use of the phrase was in the 1915 novel, Psmith, Journalist written by P.G. Wodehouse.

Note: Australia’s place names have lost their apostrophes.

 

timeless . . .

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It’s always a good day when the G.O. doesn’t go to work on a Saturday; it doesn’t take much to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. That’s what happened last weekend.

We didn’t set an alarm. We got up late, drank coffee and instead of cleaning, grocery shopping or errands we decided to set off to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to follow the crumbs in a trail of family history research I’d unearthed.

Our route past Victory Motorcycles and its lure even though he’s not in the market to buy was too strong for the G.O. to ignore, plus the traffic on Parramatta Road was barely moving so a 15 minute browse wasn’t going to make much difference.

We headed for Wentworth Falls for a late lunch at the deli-café Fed, which we’ve enjoyed before. Shortly after we arrived and were strolling down the street, a large strikingly orange butterfly flew straight up to the G.O. and fluttered determinedly in front of him. We looked meaningfully at each other, both with the same thought “we’re on the right track”.

After eating lunch then wandering through the shops we set out for our destination, Leura Memorial Gardens with vague instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The gardens were beautiful, the afternoon was sunny, as we headed down through unnumbered & unnamed tiers of gardens to a bridge and chain of ponds. It was peaceful (in between noisy gunshots from the neighbouring rifle range…) and pleasant but frustrating as we attempted to discern our treasure without the help of signs that made any sense. We searched to no avail but consoled ourselves that we were close, with handfuls of sun-warmed wild blackberries growing at the perimeter, and the agreeable company of King Parrots and wild ducks. We encountered only 2 other lots of visitors, each of whom were helpful but had no more idea of the site that we were looking for than we did.

The search, and the story, will keep for another day while I make further enquiries.

So as to make the most of the rest of the day the G.O. who has spent much more time in the Blue Mountains than me suggested a tour of the sights. Even though it was late afternoon we had plenty of time and daylight left so we drove to Wentworth Falls Lake & Wentworth Falls lookouts -new to me- where we walked around the vantage points, and on to Katoomba, Echo Point & the Three Sisters I’d visited previously.

Having in mind a specific purpose for the trip we hadn’t come the slightest bit prepared so did no proper bushwalks, nor browsed any galleries. But seduced by the fresh air and scenery we lingered.

Most stunning of all was the drive out along Narrow Neck, which in his words is the “most special out of a few special places” for the G.O. Prevented by locked gates from driving its full extent, we walked for a while in the late afternoon sun along out-of-the-way dirt tracks and climbed to vantage points to take in the views of the Jamison Valley to the east and the Megalong Valley to the west.

The sun hovered in the bright hazy sky for much longer than it seems to do in the city. Time seemed to stretch. The G.O., not wearing a watch thinking it was about 4.30 pm was surprised when I suggested as it was 7.30 pm we should start heading back. But still we couldn’t leave so we detoured via Mount Victoria to the grounds of newly restored Hydro Majestic Hotel to watch from the escarpment the sunset over the Megalong Valley.

Heading home at 8.30 pm we pronounced it a successful day regardless, and dubbed it the Oli’day in memory of the G.O.’s friend Ollie, who so loved the Blue Mountains and so loved her friend, the G.O. It was for her we made the trip and we are quite certain the orange butterfly was her message to us, so we’ll keep looking.

“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.” Jerome K. Jerome

Great things are done when men and mountains meet . . .

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Our three week holiday break managed to exceed world speed records for time passing. Each day no sooner did I get out of bed seduced by thoughts of a quiet early morning cup of coffee on the verandah than it seemed like 3 pm, or later swiftly came around.

Eleven days raced by as we steered our way through tidying, gardening, houseguests, Christmas preparations-day-visitors, house projects before we came up for air and paused on New Year’s Day. It wasn’t until the first Saturday of 2015 we managed a day-trip, just the two of us.

It’s become a bit of a tradition, that first Saturday, for us to go to Dorrigo Country Market. Even though it’s not at its best during the holiday period, it’s a great excuse for us to drive and spend a day up the mountain at one of our favourite places.

Dorrigo is a small rural town located on a plateau in the Northern Tablelands a 100 km drive from Taylors Arm via Bellingen at the top of the stunning [steep, windy] Waterfall Way. It’s known for potatoes & beef. We like the old-time country feel the town has retained. We traditionally stroll a circuit of the streets around the central Main Square but our must-visits are Dorrigo Antiques for browsing, Juan’s Cafe Del Fuego The World’s Smallest Motorcycle Museum for a chocolate milkshake and Dorrigo Bakery for a loaf of old-fashioned soft white bread.

Nearby are Dorrigo National Park & Rainforest Centre + Skywalk, part of Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and Dangar Falls.

But, thanks to Kate, this time we had a new place on our day-trip agenda. Kate’s directions “To find Griffiths Lookout turn sharp left onto Maynards Plains Road when you reach Mountain Top on the Waterfall Way, then take a left turn onto Mountain Top Road after about 1 km. Go all the way to the end” were spot on. Despite her description of its amazingness, we were amazed.

Griffiths Lookout, Dorrigo NSW Australia... the Whip Mountain near Taylors Arm is in the middle far distance.
Griffiths Lookout, Dorrigo NSW Australia… the Whip Mountain near Taylors Arm is in the middle far distance.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” William Blake

could not ask for more

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Morning, afternoon, night and in between we could not have asked for more. The G.O. and I spent a series of flawless days around Port Stephens highlighted by my sister’s simple, stunning wedding day at Nelson Head Inner Lighthouse and a relaxed, fun, beautifully personalized & crafted reception at the ibis Styles Port Stephens Salamander Shores Hotel at Soldiers Point.

Practically, unusually warm May weather enhanced the celebrations. We, and more importantly the bride, were graced with 14-15 to 22-23 degrees C (57-59 to 71-73 F) clear sunny days and fresh, full moon lit nights.

Before, during and after the big day we caught up with family, friends and as happens on these occasions made the acquaintance of a few more.

But while the wedding party et al had a go-carting post-wedding day recovery session we took some time out. The G.O. and I, just because, shouted Dad an excellent seafood lunch at The Deck at Soldiers Point Marina, afterwards wandering around the shiny nautical vessels dreaming of the boating life. Although, I think Dad would have liked to be able to drop a line and catch a fish or two amongst the tauntingly visible shoals safe in the clear waters of the no-fishing marina zone.

Any free time we had the G.O. and I sat on the balcony absorbing the views over the garden and bay, or walked on the beach.

I could not ask for more, Ed McCain

“…These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive
These are the moments I’ll remember all my life
I’ve got all I’ve waited for
And I could not ask for more…”

how much can a koala bear?

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koala sunning in a she-oak
koala sunning in a she-oak

The event that might have rivalled my sister’s wedding in appeal fortunately happened the morning after. Walking in the direction of breakfast we crossed paths with my uncle and aunt, who advised us that Dad and co. were sitting at the garden tables watching the koala.

We picked up the pace pausing only to be disappointed as we passed the non-functioning coffee machine, resorting to instant coffee to carry out with us.

The koala, which at first I couldn’t see obliged by moving and draping itself over the limb of the Casuarina (she-oak tree) where it was soaking up the sun over the beach, and becoming visible. After breakfast we walked down and snapped a few pics of the only koala I’d ever seen in the wild.

Life's good, mate. Too right. No worries.
Life’s good, mate. Too right. No worries.

After which the G.O. and I did a circuit of the beach. Upon returning, at the tap washing the sand off my feet I saw a lump move in the tree above me. The koala was on its descent, it was lunch-time so perhaps looking for a snack in one of the neighbouring eucalypts.

I sat where I was, the G.O. a little further back. The koala paused, settled, regarded me, and resumed its downward path. On the ground it gave me a glance then moved toward a slender gum about 2 metres away, and ascended almost to the top where it paused, ate a few leaf tips, ascended further and settled.

On Sunday morning the koala had moved from where we’d last seen it, and nor was it the she-oak. Eagle-eye G.O. spotted it nearby in a different eucalypt, luckily as we’d been about to walk adjacent to it to return to the hotel, just as the koala made its presence known to me by taking an elevated pee.

If I was a koala living on the shores of Salamander Bay at Port Stephens, I wouldn’t move far either. As they say in real estate… location, location.

 

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*How much can a koala bear? Australiana, Austen Tayshus