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. Read the rest of this entry »

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! Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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