Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Spilling over

Yesterday I had a day on my own. Colin left at 4am to drive to Coolangatta to catch his early morning flight back to Melbourne. I slept on and woke up not long before he arrived in Melbourne!

Morning jobs taken care of I wandered along the foreshore footpath admiring and photographing a series of wonderful sculptures. Artscape is an exhibition by local, national and international artists focussing on human interaction with nature.

In the afternoon I followed the headland walking track from Byron Bay past Watego and Little Watego Bays, to the most Easterly tip of Australia and up to the Lighthouse. I was fortunate enough to see a pod of dolphins at play and also some whales. The good work from my walking was undone by the icecream I ate, but it was worth it.

It would have been a perfect day if the others had been here.  It was so strange to be on holiday, so to speak, on my own. Such experiences are much more enjoyable when they are shared.

Well there’s been lots of sharing today. Colin and the kids arrived last night. Today we have shared hot chocolate sitting on the deck overlooking the sea (Johanna showing us her dance moves); have marvelled at the sculptures and the meaning and symbolism the artists are expressing (bought the handbook to help make sense of them); sat in the sun eating our lunch (no sun on our site so took our chairs to an empty neighbouring site); and joined our friends in the search for some ‘surfable’ waves (not a wave to be seen on the beach which borders the caravan park)

And the van and our site are spilling over with phones, phone chargers, mp3 players, cords, shoes, discarded clothes, towels, wetsuits, surfboards……

Monday, 28 June 2010

Beans and honey

Yesterday we did all the hard work of setting up, working out the optimum use of space on our site and putting the large tarp over the areas we want to keep dry. We took a lot longer than our neighbours – they were more of the bung it up and go catch the surf kind of people. We were still adjusting tarp poles when they returned an hour or two later!

Today we did the shopping, set up the solar panel and then set off for Bangalow for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The forecast rain turned out to be light drizzle on and off all day, although the sun won out for a while in the afternoon.

Bangalow was awash with people and later we realised why when we stumbled upon the monthly market. Colin found the same coffee beans he enjoyed last time we were here and we found the same bloke selling honey. We made purchases from both of them. (unfortunately the resident peacock-like birds spilled half of the coffee beans on the ground when we left the package sitting on our outside table for a few moments to say hello to friends who had arrived)

We have re-connected with the friends we made over summer and been introduced to some new families. We watched the tail end of a sunset from the deck area of the caravan park. Colin is now cooking a new recipe he saw on tv last week – some kind of Brazilian dish with fish – smells good.

Tomorrow morning Colin flies back to Melbourne for the day (a previous work commitment) and the kid’s will fly back with him in the evening. Then our van and our site will be spilling over – but it will be a good kind of spilling, we are both looking forward to ‘adventuring’ all together again.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


Our sojourn in Byron Bay this year could be rather interesting.

Three weeks ago Colin injured his knee playing tennis. It is slowly getting better. Bottom line – he can’t surf. Actually he can’t do many of the activities that he would normally do when we are yurting. I’m not sure how he will manage this.

A couple of months ago I rang to make a change to our booking here at Byron Bay only to find out that a computer error had occurred and there was no record of our booking. To cut a long story short there were no powered sites left – our options were, not to come, pay an astronomical amount to stay in a cabin (and tell them there were only three children instead of four) or book an unpowered site. The first two were not really an option so unpowered site it was.

In the van we had gas for cooking and to run the fridge. That left lights and power points as an issue. We decided to have a battery installed so we could have lights, then we had to install an inverter so that we could use the power point to charge computers, phones etc… Then we had to solve the problem of charging the battery so we bought a portable solar panel….. Many dollars later we are set up and able to camp wherever. We had always planned to set ourselves up not to be dependent on power, it just happened a little sooner than we had anticipated.

There is still a slight problem though and that is that we can’t run anything off our battery that draws too much power and that definitely and unfortunately includes the heater. Winter in Byron Bay is still cold and dark at night! So we purchased a small heater that runs off gas canisters – we’ll see how it goes. We’ll also see how it goes heating water in a saucepan on the stove instead of a jug and toasting bread under the griller and not in the toaster. We’ll rotate the charging of computers and iphones dependent on how much power is left in the battery. We’ll hope there is enough sun each day to recharge the battery. And we’ll look at all our tenting neighbours and tell ourselves that if they can do it so can we. And we’ll remind ourselves of our yurting mantra not to complain - our set up is still a lot more comfortable than many others. This is an adventure after all. And as I have often told my kid’s in the past, not all parts of an adventure are fun at the time.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

too far to turn back now ...

We pulled off the road and sat there wondering which way to go. We’d spent the morning climbing through the mountains between Tamworth and Armidale. There was another 100kms of Great Dividing Range to conquer before Coffs Harbour.

But there was a left turn that would take us directly to Grafton. Same distance, about 100kms but it would save us at least an hour tomorrow. Ah, what the heck, let’s do it.

The first 7 or 8 kms were OK, narrow and a bit windy, but I figured if this was the go, we’d be OK. Then the road narrowed more, started squiggling rather than waving and yep, climbing. Now Pat, our 1990 Patrol is in reasonable shape, but with the 20 foot van loaded with ‘stuff’, it doesn’t exactly laugh at the slopes. Within 10 kms I was down to second, and not for a short time … for a decent stretch. Tight corners and hairpin bends. Gulp. Nowhere to turn around now.

When we cruised into Grafton about two and half hours later it was one of those moments where I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased we’d done it (as in, we can take this thing through any mountain pass now) or slap myself across the face and pronounce me a fool.

Actually I exaggerate, I wouldn’t have kept going if I thought we were being foolish, but it was challenging driving and I was pleased we didn’t meet any truck coming the other way. We’ve wandered up to the pub (a 4 or 5 km walk), had a good feed, talked to the kids, and caught up on the news.

Tomorrow … well I have been looking forward to being in Byron Bay for a long time, It will be sweet.

Friday, 25 June 2010

getting chased in a dream ...

You know what its like. You are dreaming, and someone is chasing you. You are trying to get away but you are frustratingly unable to speed up. Imagine the opposite. You are trying to slow down, but there is this mysterious force that speeds you up.

That’s what the first day back in the yurt felt like. All we had was each other’s company, our music when we felt like it, and the smorgasbord of country scenery as we crawled north through Victoria and NSW. My brain kept racing, even as I slowed my breathing and tried to soak in the surrounds.

Today was better. Much better. We’ve got as far as Gunnedah, about 80ks shy of Tamworth. We’ve been through Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Dubbo. We normally take the double lanes via Sydney to Newcastle and hug the coast. This time, for a change, at the last minute we hung a left, setting aside the slow snaking Hume for the Western Plains. Tonight we ventured to the local RSL where the fare is predicable but sound … satisfying after a couple of days at 90ks … on the flat.

So removed from the rest of life have we been that we have only just discovered; the Socceroos bitter sweet finale and …. And that Julia Gillard made the move and ousted Kevin Rudd.

The soundtrack for some of our travel today was a playlist I put together of ‘Australiana’ music. Those familiar with the iconic drawl of John Schumann (RedGum) will recognise:

“We went looking for Australia, between the TV lines,

‘cause the ABC just never made it real.”

Or the opening line of midnight Oil’s Truganina, “There’s a road train going nowhere …”

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary … my ‘Maria’ playlist will get a run for sure.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Death and Life

When I was a kid I had a favourite cousin. His name was Darryn. At family gatherings we had a lot of fun together - I was a bit of a tomboy and was more than happy to do ‘boy’ stuff like kicking the soccer ball and setting traps to try and catch birds. 18 months or so ago Darryn was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I was shocked, we are the same age, that could easily be me! What if it was and my time on this Earth was limited, what would I want to do with the time that was left? What have I not done that I really would like to do? Travelling, including a sojourn around Australia in a caravan was what immediately came to mind.

Darryn’s diagnosis was the catalyst for an important conversation. Why wait? Why leave ‘living’ until its end is near? Why not make dreams a reality? And so one conversation led to another and ‘Yurting’ was born.

Unfortunately Darryn had a very aggressive form of the disease and quickly it robbed him of all motor functioning. His courage and dignity in the face of such a cruel disease was incredible. We flew to Tassie yesterday to attend his Memorial Service.

In a few days we are taking the Yurt North to Byron Bay. My cousins disease and ultimate death has created in us a desire for life, to live it fully and now. We are indebted to him.