Category Archives: Holidays

Girls Night Out

My elder sister has already created a strong support network after only a short time on Bribie Island. TOBIs – Territorians on Bribie Island, being one group with obvious common background. Seems those who used to live in the Northern Territory quite like the low-key lifestyle and capped population to be had on Bribie Island.

Another group is known ironically as “the Young Chicks” – a group of women from a certain age who meet monthly for dinner. Apparently my big sister was the instigator, originating the group with emails to inform where and when to gather, she usually books.

To pad out that selected lifestyle is WIRE – another woman’s group. This group is more sports orientated; Golfers, tennis players, swimmers who gather to discuss issues relating to local council, politics (main focus being a recent huge increase in rates, particularly for canal-side houses) travel destinations, small business and grand children’s activities. These women share problems and strategies.

During several different visits and our housesitting members of these networks certainly took pains to be inclusive and probably kept an eye on the home-minders.

Returning home after a lovely evening I encountered another infestation, our biggest; a mouse pitter-patting down the hall. Rod is keen to blame all of these visitors on my sister’s garden mulching – composting system.

Finally we have success on the beach weather front. Walking the dog on a picturesque morning with early sunbeams and less wind, but eventually even this minor resistance makes us turn around. The terns on the beach have a head-bobbing mannerism that makes them look like little old ladies or kids with a funny little dance. Sea gulls wash on the surf edge.

Long established rule of swimming come to mind. Never swim alone, in the early morning, in the presence of bait fish, or in clouded water. I try not to shift into panic mode too quickly. At least I couldn’t see any bait fish.

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No beach day — again

We drive again, this time to explore along the Bruce Highway to the south. Around parts of the Moreton Bay Drive. Scarborough and Redcliffe add to our waterfall and pool chasing.

From Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs, …Three years of that time I had the misfortune to be in a hell called Morton Bay…

Moreton Bay
Doesn’t look that bad?

Things aren’t as bad as Carey implies, even if the demographics indicate that some ethic groups; Samoans and Tongan especially, not that this evident on our drive tour. Except for an insignia to mixed cultures and a plaque to the first Samoan/Tonga meeting house outside these countries. We do however notice some very worse-for-wear bayside cheap housing which looks like state housing. This whole area was probably a crowded sea-side destination that is now a tad shabby.

Mangrove edged beaches on the edge of Morton Bay which has greyish and choppy water. Tide is high with occasional glimpses of minimal yellow sand. Further out onto the Cape the coast looks more scenic. Scarborough is definitely out of the wind, but rain still threatens. The Dugong symbol indicates Morton Bay Drive, or North Morton Drive. untitled (315)We pass marinas on one side, seafood outlets and a tiny caravan village with pastel cottages, trimmed white. They’re so cute and doll-like. Expensive multi-story houses next to run down fibro shacks. A few old Queenslanders, tastefully restored. Then resort towers reminiscent of Waikiki, tacky in places.

From here the Ferry departs to the Bay Islands – Morton and Stradbroke. We promise to do that one day. No doubt the red cliffs are more statuesque out to sea.

Another no beach day! It has now been five days since we felt a beach swim was possible. We soak up the sun’s warmth away from ridge tops, but know the southerly wind will be worse on the beach. To counter this lack of swimming we spend time looking at real estate, fascinated by the range of goods and chattels we can get in price ranges far more reasonable than Sydney. Media rooms dominate.

I explore the fire trails behind the Bribie Island Arts Centre, watched by Kangaroos that stare down in response to my whistling.

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House Sitting Bribie Island Queensland

We are entrenched in the site of our 8 week house sitting duties. Cleaning surfaces and putting my sister’s paraphernalia away. The house is busy with all sorts of knick-knacks and we are used to less stuff.

From Siri Hustvedt’sThe Summer Without Menthe interior of the house disturbs me, not because it is ugly but because it was dense with the lives of its owns…I wondered how I could fit myself into this place … How do people go from one house sitting situation to another? Each time having to find your own place. Or arrange someone else’s personal items. We will be on Bribie for 8 weeks which is a real change from the three days that is our typical minimum stay. Seldom have we been in a place for more than a week.

Kitchen storage example
Full cupboards.

All those temporary homes have rituals. Arrival day is often taken with search for accommodation, factor in time to slightly orientate. Rod’s tendency was to unpack and then go for a walk. He needed some sort of recognition compass points. Marking his place by pissing on the posts perhaps?

Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men again. …I methodically cleaned the house excavating clumps of dust to which paper clips, burnt matchsticks,…and unidentifiable bits of debris had adhered themselves… The musty, indefinite edges of every object I my visual field had taken on a precision and clarity that cheered me…

Will even the small changes be noticed, or the large ones cause offence? I was shifting kitchen equipment, Rod says, ‘she will be pissed off’. So many pieces in kitchens encountered on our travels are about fulfilling requirements, rather than actually provided to be used. Thus there was often limiting storage for non-perishables, all of which added weight to the concept that travellers are not equipped to actually self-cater. Here everything, even a pancake cooker is included.

Fabric storage
Just like this, only overflowing.

For packed shelves in Bribie – From The Dressmaker …cluttered with the stuff of mending and dressmaking – scraps and off-cut, remnants of fashion…shoved in every orifice…were bags and bags of material bits spewing ribbon ends, frayed threads and fluff.. Cloth spilled from dark corners and beneath chairs and clouds of wool lay about, jumbled with satin corners. Striped rags, velvet off-cuts, strips of velour, lame, checks, spots, paisley and school uniforms mixed with feather boas and sequin-splattered cotton, shearer’s singlets and bridal lace…

Queensland's only road accessible sand island.
Greetings from our home for 8 weeks

Onward to Burleigh

Now we get to experience the major changes to Pacific Highway, straight out of Waterside and onto the bypass. How will all those caravan parks and beach resorts along this coast cope? Places like Red Rock, Arrawarra and Mulloway. Much less access to the –just turn off the highway– discovery factor.

There is a point progressing north when the vegetation changes. Paper barks dominate, the ground seems like a flood plain. Vines fill the gaps. There are gum trees but they seem insipid. Signs warn of Kangaroo the next 20km, then Horses. There are no perceivable fences.

Woodburn NSW
Lovely riverside to take a break.

We stop at Woodburn, where the lampposts sport fire motifs art work. On the Evan’s River, this is the Lismore turn off. Our café choice does not do Chai, only Latte (not the same thing) but a huge range of milk shakes. You can get an enormous artery choking $15 breakfast, and plenty are. Steady stream of traffic loaded up school holiday returner style. We are subjected to random breath testing just outside Ballina.

Ballina NSW
Not meant to be a Bunning’s Ad

The Big Prawn’s new posh coat of paint has made it more visible as we transition onto the Logan Freeway. That anticipated view across the rolling hills of Macadamia Nut plantations still seen even with the huge gouges into the rich red dirt for the major upgrading of this section.

There will never be a by-pass around Coffs Harbor was our conclusion. It’s too political with a commercial – commerce lobby. Tourism must traverse to ensure a strong passing trade. The purchase of swaths of banana grower’s land to put in a highway that just seems too hard.

Thick traffic is encountered only when we close-in on the Tweed River. Now there seems a buffer zone on speed. According to urban myth you will not get booked X km over the limit, is it 5, or 10, we don’t know. But the locals do seem to, and they speed accordingly.

Virgin Travel Magazine writes Burleigh up as – just a stone’s throw from the glitz and glam of Surfers Paradise, but its village like atmosphere makes it feel like world away…. The new Byron Bay…former fishing village has evolved from a touristy coastal hub offering kitsch souvenirs and fish and chips to a hip little enclave… pristine beaches, a surf culture, fabulous dining, eclectic markets and laid back charm. While all that is a big sell, the article does go on to point out…so many individual shop and land owners…it can never be built out, so you are doing to get a village feel forever…We hope so. Village as featured image.

Village markets burleigh heads
Gotta love a market

We didn’t schedule our arrival, getting to Burleigh for a sunny Sunday, end of a long weekend. Weekend market is on the foreshore. ($2 for giant pack of bananas) Parking is a nightmare, some are even on the entrance ramps to apartment block car park. ‘Tomorrow all those people will be gone, and we’ll have it all to ourselves’, is Rod’s optimism. Offered up for a change from the ‘I love it here!’ mantra. He asks all sorts of questions about which apartments are up for sale.

Time for food shopping, parking under the areas covered by shade cloth (a tropical Queensland shopping centre innovation). It’s crowded here and finding a trolley is also a debacle. What are all these people doing here? But we do recognize the Australian triathlon Legend Jason Shortis at the check outs. His wife scours at me, but he’s ever the diplomat making small talk.

Jason Shortis
Might random women talk to Jason?

We finish off the day with a mini-drive tour around the canal-side housing of Burleigh cove. This probably used to be a swamp. The type of water soaked land those developer scams were selling off in the 1970s. Wall to wall Mc-mansions now, built so close they could share garage doors.

To where did the day vanish?

After dark late in the week at Burleigh means a gathering on the foreshore that resembles Cheryl Strayed’s Wild …loose tribe of so-called freethinkers, who share a common goal of peace and love on earth…drum jams and bonfires an parties… They can’t light bonfires on the grass esplanade so practice flame dancing, and fire eating instead. Parties are all about communities of music and low wire work. The latter I think is teaching newcomers so they can make money at county fairs at some stage in their travels.

On the Road again

Leaving Sydney to Woolgoolga – departing early by 5am to avoid the traffic through the Northern suburbs. Being a newcomer to Sydney I couldn’t believe a lack in alternatives to winding through Pymble, Turramurra and even up to Hornsby once you were on the M whatever number. The roads follow ridge tops, loose and gain lanes creating bottlenecks: why is there not a lovely straight, traffic flowing freeway?

Woolgoolga vegetation
What a tree!

We discover the loyalty discounts that can be had by booking somewhere you’ve already stayed. Always a pleasure to take in the bush that surrounds Lakeside cabins, just out of Woolgoolga. We spot a stingray in the waters of Lake Hearn. Kookaburras perched on the trees watching us, watching them. But luckily they do not cackle as this according to Rod, ‘would mean it’s going to rain’. They do become our alarm clock at 5.40am. Wind on the town beach erased the swim-sun-fun factor.

Our visit to this familiar half way between Brisbane and Sydney spot aligns with both Anzac day (right) and the Curry Fest. The latter billed as, ‘the sights, sounds and aromas….a day for the senses…’preparation includes the arrival of banks of porta-loos (left). We’d already been instructed by our neighbour, ‘to get a curry there,’ on a previous business, but the festival gave us a chance to multi-indulge.

This small town has a huge Indian population owing to the presence of major Sikh temples, it’s called …The missing piece of Paradise…a title to which I am inclined to agree. untitled (259)Apparently Punjab immigrants came to work on the local farms in the 1940s. Obviously they liked it and stayed. I note that they own 90% of the banana plantations. Is that the same for the other major crop – blueberries? Pickers accommodation is to be had in town at $120 per week in a shared house, including wifi (jobs found on sites like Gumtree apparently) Bit of a weedy garden, but right on the beach.

All sorts of long overdue upgrades are underway on the Pacific Highway. One of the largest road infrastructure projects in NSW. I search for some figures of what is being spent to by-pass traffic around all those black spots like Urunga, (still sporting the scars of recent trucks crashing into buildings incidents) but seems only sections are aligned to numbers, $820 million for south of Kempsey. There is even a 51 page document about the Woolgoolga to Ballina section at www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/projects/northern-nsw etc etc etc.

Pacific Highway
About time for Pacific highway improvements

Fantastic landmark at the highest ocean lookout, even more elevated as it’s painted on the water tank. Must be visible for miles out to sea. Nice touch with the yellow submarine. (featured image)

Spending School Holidays

Even though the weather we are encountering is getting cooler, and the days shorter Rod is still able to get away with short pants. End of daylight saving means we can relax into waking with the sun around 7am. But in the few remaining days of extended daylight in the evenings we can enjoy a few BBQs with Liz from next door, who welcomes us back eagerly. But soon, all too soon we plan to leave for our longest absence.

Royal Easter show
The other school holiday activity – Royal Easter Show. Natasha’s show junk food of choice.

Easter; can always go either way in Sydney– cold, wet, miserable or cool evenings but precious autumn days. Seems to depend on if you planned a family camping trip, then it will rain. But this too is part of the Easter tradition.

Winter traditionally arrives after Ironman Port Macquarie, ask my husband, the one who has raced this endurance format for 20 consecutive years. Even as part-time residents of Sydney we still see all those dedicated individuals out there on their bikes doing those last long rides.

A legacy of not being at work leading into the public holidays is we have no shared Easter eggs. These treats seem to find their way to all sorts of desks at this time of the year. I aren’t at that work station, and only offer a passing thought to who is filling that space.

Rod’s employer gave him a harbor cruise last Christmas which we decided to use. There is also the Helicopter ride I brought for his birthday. Seeing as the date I’d planned for Rod to enjoy this was when he was laid up in a hospital bed recovering from a broken pelvis, now his able to tick this off his bucket list. (featured image)

I able to so some running on similar trails, heading down to the pipeline trail through Heathcote National Park. A trail that world class triathlete Craig Alexander says is, ‘this is the best running in the world.’ Fitness can also be maintained with a few short bike rides, I find an ability to make some difficult creek crossings on the mountain bike, something I never had the strength for before. So this not working must be beneficial.

Arrangements that have to be made things like re-directing the mail, again. This time we opt for everything to be sent to Rod’s dad, something I wasn’t sure he would be well enough to cope with, but he seems keen and any bills have been placed on direct debit systems. All of which we now know works well. We make repeat bookings of our favorite places to stop on the Pacific highway, having made this trip several times and knowing it takes two days to drive comfortable. Getting away at a time which will allow us these stops plus making our deadline to the house-sitting arrangement. Chris wants us there a week before so he can go through all the instructions, but we opt for a much less cross-over time.

Pacific Highway Australia
Updated sections of the infamous Pacific Highway

 

Leaving This Isle behind…

So much is written, there has been so much influence from his tiny place to the greater literary landscape, not to mention the historical and environmental canon.

Again I know this is being re-run more than episodes of Friends but I can’t resist Carmel Bird’s words from Cape Grimm… This is a place of grey ad lilac rock scabbed with moody lichens, a place of drifting mists milky haze, splashing waterfalls and living lakes and rivers, carpeted green fields, leaping rainbow fishes chasing the flittering carpet of newborn moonfaced moths. Clouds of mournful sheep, ash-green clumps of still and whispering treetops, dark as velvet. The wisdom and breath of ancient thoughtful trees. …and deep mournful forests ravines where rumours of pre-history murmur and burble, seething softly with the imagination of some great brooding spirit. …

You can’t help but contemplate the genocide, the protest movements and the writers who try to grapple with the ghosts that inhabit this tiny isle. I am sure I will find more but here is another piece from Camel Bird.

Swirling shifting shawls of shiny iodine-brown seaweed, slap in drifting straps and beaded chaplets through grey waters, against silvery-blue rocks. The empty sky, the stretch and curve of empty ocean dream of long ago. And long ago men in small tough boats came to harvest seals. …

Edge of the World Tasmania
If you look hard enough you can see Sth America.

History is everywhere in Tasmania and it’s the tiny details that remind and seem to open a chasm of potential. Like the time I saw a tiny arrow on a brick fallen from a dissolving wall built by some prisoner of the crown. Or the grave stones that take pride of place in public open places in Hobart. What was their world like? We couldn’t possibly imagine while we sat in the sun with fresh sandwiches.

 

Little details gleam out of the mist of lost stories and lives and I see the shepherds, the sealers, the tribesmen (the convicts) and women as bleary smudges in a faraway landscape that sits, looms, hunches, weeps in a forgotten corner of the past, not quite real, not quite invented…Carmel Bird’s Cape Grimm.

So much isolation – while I do originate from the most isolated capital city in the world – Perth, Tasmania has equi-distance to the next landfall. If not further; which is closer – Mauritius or South America? The latter I think. But the open ocean does grant Tasmania (and West Australia) very clean air, as cited by Carmel Bird again…This earth, these waters are stained bloody crimson, a deep sad opal crimson that churns endlessly through the waves of the sea and forever nourishes the ghosts that walk the land…The air today is constantly monitored and measured for its content, for the detection of impurities, but no gauge can ever quantify the broken man sous that haunt this world and windswept edge…. Cape Grimm Got to love that notion of the historical ‘ghosts’ infecting the land, and thence the sea and land. These hauntings do seem real in Tasmania. Especially when you consider the fact that Australia’s worst mass murder did occur here, even in my memory.

You have to visit, even with all the swirling ghosts. Tasmania is worth it.

Another factor to touring in Tassie is the weather, “I realize during this road trip is that you don’t visit Tasmania for the weather….Thanks to a Sunday press travel section. Hobart was the worst to us, this was where we learnt to multi-layer clothing. Cradle Mountain was cool too, but no rain and you expect to have to rug up at night in the mountains.

Edge of the world Tasmania
Edge of the World selfie!