Thursday, 21 April 2011

Last Day

The sun shone today, our last day.

A final swim/boogieboard at our local beach

A final walk to the bakery for fresh rolls

A final lunch by the river

A final walk across parts of the river at low tide

A final bike ride around local streets

A final late afternoon walk on the beach (and a quick dip for Colin and Johanna)

A final glance at the spectacular shoreline bathed in golden light

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Rainy Days

Three days of rain now.

You need a sense of humour on days like these. Our neighbour was heard to say this morning, “if it’s gonna friggen rain all day I’m going to the pub!”  In between the showers we walked on the beach, Colin had a play on Rachel’s surf board (his is getting fixed by Doctor Ding – really that’s the name on his business card), Colin did some work and Johanna and I took our camera’s and filled in some time taking photographs.

Our routine walks on the beach have been interrupted by the rainy weather, we now time them for in between showers. We had got used to seeing familiar faces at similar times each morning and evening. There is the woman who swims every morning, planting an open umbrella in the sand for her two large dogs to sit under shade while they wait for her, there is the small Asian lady with bandy legs and a scruffy, wiry terrier and the older man, white beard and brown leather skin over a rake thin body – he runs each morning in shorts (carries his tee-shirt) socks and sandals. We have seen practitioners of Thai Chi, Yoga and other forms of meditation, we have seen kids fly kites, beach combers, joggers, walkers and swimmers. There is always something going on.  And when we have walked in the ‘in between shower times’ we have sometimes been the only ones on a huge stretch of misty grey coastline, small and insignificant in the scheme of things.

Everything outside is wet now, the day has been grey and misty with rain, sometimes it teems down, the paths flood, people flee for cover or just get soaked. There are quite a few new tarps that went up today. We are so thankful not to be in a tent – it helps keep the frustration and misery at bay. Rainy days are not pleasant, but they are what they are and we are lucky to have a warm and dry place to retreat. As I write the rain drums on the caravan roof, Colin is concocting some kind of Asian chicken soup with egg noodles and crab cakes. Lucky for us, in miserable weather Colin consoles himself with creative cooking – Johanna and I are not complaining.

Some photos by Johanna

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

what was I thinking?

Not long after we set up with the caravan I was in the RACV shop doing something and a cookbook caught my eye. '30 recipes with 12 ingredients' or something like that. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It sat on the cookbook shelf above the stove in the yurt for 12 months and never came off.

Having just finished a great meal, full of flavour from turmeric, lemongrass, green curry paste, lime, fresh ginger and garlic, with spinach, coconut milk and fish, I am reminded how important good food is when we are away. There is something that happens in your mouth, whole body and even mind, when you are deeply satisfied with wholesome, tasty food that you've prepared yourself. I'm sure there are thousands of people in caravan parks around Australia tonight who reckon 4 ingredient spag. bol. is the bees knees and all power to them.

But for me and our yurt, its good tucker complemented by a decent dose of junk food.

That'll do me fine.

Monday, 18 April 2011

expectation ramblings

There will be a lot of disappointed people around us tonight. A lot just arrived today and it has rained most of the day. The typical noisy excitement of the first night will get many of them through to the morning in good spirits. But for some, the frustration of spending their leave in a tent in the rain will be too much to maintain the holiday attitude.

We’re lucky on two fronts. Firstly had a week of spectacular summery weather and all the trimmings. And we’re in our yurt, warm and dry. and I’m thinking again about expectations. How would I be feeling if the weather had been like this all along? How would I be feeling if my McTavish had got dinged last week and I’d been unable to ride it in the iconic conditions at Wategos? We remind each other of the ‘what happens happens’ part of our yurting mantra often, and I think it does help us to roll with the punches.

But how does that relate to expectations? Is it that we have really low expectations so we’re not disappointed? No. I think we have high expectations but we hold them loosely, AND we realise that the externals, the things outside our control are ultimately not the things that matter most. The things that matter most are our own internal peace, love and joy.

Last night, (presumably) some kids nicked a bag off the table under our awning. It was a loved (if cheap) bag, and only had a few bits of clothing and swimwear in it. They could have taken so much other more valuable stuff but must have needed a bag for some other things. Bummer. But glad the loss wasn’t too great.

We’ve lived most of our adult lives without material freedom. The vocation I chose meant we had to be really frugal ... we certainly weren't living in poverty, but compared with our peers we had very little disposable income. Perhaps that has helped us not to take the pleasures of life for granted. And by pleasures, I don’t mean just in the hedonistic sense. For me it includes owning things that work ... or if they’re busted, being able to get them fixed. Cars, clothes, kitchen equipment, surfboards. We deeply appreciate the simple pleasures each day offers us. Food, laughter, rain on the roof.

So, I’m hoping that those around us have bought inner peace with them on their leave. otherwise, given the forecast, it could be all kinds of ugly.

Fin Dings

The rain that was forecast yesterday, but held off, made its presence felt today – showers on and off all day.  We had a slow start to the morning; our usual walk on the beach, bacon, eggs, tomatoes and hot chocolate for breakfast and then packed up to head around to Wategos Beach. Rain is irrelevant to surfing – swell and wind direction are far more important I am learning. Colin joined all the other die hards trying to catch the tricky waves. Unfortunately a beginner on a board was on a direct collision course with him and was unable to manoeuvre his board to avoid a crash, Colin dived to avoid the inevitable, his board could not. Fortunately Colin is in one piece, unfortunately the Mc Tavish is sporting two deep gouges to its side where the other boards fins connected. It will need a visit to the repair shop. We are thankful it is not Colin needing a visit to a repair shop!

Surfing abandoned for the day we cruised the shops in Byron Bay with thousands of others, tried a few more flavours at the ice cream shop and generally filled in the afternoon.

Warm and dry now, the rainy evening ahead is just right for a spot of dvd watching .

What happens, happens, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

market day

Markets are a regular and enjoyed part of our yurting life. In the Byron region, the different communities take turns. Today it was Mullumbimby's go. We have driven here before, it is only 15 minutes drive up into the hinterland, and the memory of the drive is marked by a spectacular view of the hill behind the town as you drive over a ridge on the outskirts of the town.

Apart from soaking in the local culture and relaxed market vibe we usually sample some local produce. Today we carried home some honey, a bottle of sugar cane juice with lime and ginger, Wombah coffee beans, which I have been buying now for a couple of years and some tastey bananas and apples. Johanna, also bought a little blue onyx stone which reminds her of the ocean.

We drove back into Brunswick Heads and decided to head to Bangalow for lunch, a wonderful town near Byron Bay which is a bit of a hotspot for lazy weekend wandering ... lots of interesting gift shops, gourmet food and that kind of thing.

Then on to Byron Bay, but with not much swell at either The Pass or Wategos, we decided to leave the Boards dry for the day and wander around the shops ... which Johanna didn't really appreciate ... so it was back home for an energetic late afternoon swim to work off some of the lunch from the French Patisserie in Bangalow.

Rogan Josh for dinner (just a bottle of sauce from the supermarket!) and Maria is back on the iPad scrabble before we watch "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' ... feels like an inside night with the weather having cooled a bit.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Mid Way

Light is fast disappearing, the sun can no longer be seen and twilight is making its way. There is a cacophony of bird song as multitudes prepare to settle for the night. The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are squawking and the Lorikeets screeching and a heap of other smaller birds are joining in the fray. Johanna and I are sitting by the river making the most of the fading day.

Today feels a bit like a mid way point even though we are more than half way through our time here. Today was the first day Colin did not have significant work that needed to be done, today was the last of the beautiful weather for the moment (rain forecast later tonight and tomorrow and possible showers after that) and today (Friday) heralds the weekend – not that days have much significance here. However with Colin having completed much of his work for the moment it feels like a weekend to him.

This last week we have made the most of the beautiful weather, spending the mornings at the beach – surfing, boogie boarding and swimming, Colin has worked in the afternoons and some evenings, Johanna and I have shopped, relaxed and played in the river on the surf boards in the afternoons while Colin has worked and then we have read, played games and scrabble on the iPad in the evenings. We have made regular trips to the local bakery for fresh bread rolls and frequented our favourite ice cream shop in Byron Bay (sticky date and mars bar are the current stand out flavours) Daily habits and routines have formed.

One of these is our daily morning and late afternoon walks at our local beach (beautiful for walking, great for a swim or boogie boarding but not great for surfing – hence the daily trips to Wategos Beach: next cove around from Byron Bay). We join the morning exercise-ers, dog walkers, locals and tourists all enjoying the magnificent beach. Colin and Johanna regularly take a quick dip.

Twice daily, we walk along the caravan park path next to the river,

cross the wooden bridge,

take the path down to the beach

and are welcomed with a long stretch of beautiful white sand.

The day begins and ends on the beach, as is fitting.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

from where I am

When we bought our caravan two years ago and schemed to experiment with a lifestyle that made the most of the flexibility we have being self employed, it was days like today that I fantasised about.

I snuck out while Maria and Johanna were still snoozing and wandered 100 metres to the Expresso Bar for the first coffee I'd bought since we arrived. I usually hand-grind my own in the yurt, but the noise of the grinder and the kettle would have done violence to the tranquility. I sat outside overlooking the river and finished off some of the work I'd started yesterday.

We sat on the river bank and had a slow breakfast while chatting with our neighbours. We shared typical caravanning banter and when I asked him about the MakePovertyHistory wrist band he was wearing, he said lazily, 'Yeah, I heard Tim Costello speak 7 years ago, they were giving these out and I've been wearing one ever since. 'Wore the first one out, this is my second.'

The surf at Watego's was invented for blokes like me. Glassy smooth water out back, rolling swell that lined up magnificently, postcard-esque. I paddled onto some waves that I rode along the beach, rode into shore, wandered back around the beach and paddled back out at the point to save paddling against the current, and waited for another lazy wave. The water was 25 degrees, the temperature was mid twenties and not a breathe of wind.

Salad sandwich for lunch then I settled into a cafe in Byron Bay to work for the afternoon while Maria and Johanna wandered around the shops. Good, interesting and challenging work.

Back at the yurt in time for a swim at Brunswick Heads beach and our ritual pre-dinner walk in the fading light. Threw a fishing line in the river wishfully before rolling up my sleeves and concocting some Mexican style dishes for dinner. Peace and joy.

Good food. Amazing surf. Stimulating work. Love. Happiness.

Not every day we are yurting feels as blissful as today. But we are grateful that most are way above average.

Don't rush. Don't complain. What happens happens.

Sometimes what happens is wonderful.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


As I lay on my back today, floating in the 24 degree water and letting the waves knock me about, I realised my love for the ocean.  I love the feeling of water lapping up around your toes as you stand at the waters edge. I love as you run in the shallows, small waves frothing at your ankles. I love the rush of water along your body as you take your first dive, under the perfect wave, as the water soaks your hair through and it flows out behind you. I love when you come up from your first dive, the cold air above caresses your arms, legs and stomach. I love then, as you dive in and out, as if changing between two different worlds. I love letting the waves thrash you around, letting the sea water take you over, like a disease, but way better, it feels like it runs through your veins and thumps in your heart. Then last, I love when you emerge from the ocean, the sand gently massages your toes and your towel feels snuggly and warm.
When you're as lucky as me, able to visit wonderful beaches as I do, as often as I do, even when you leave, it feels like the ocean's still thumping in your heart and flowing in your veins.


When we set up our yurt, I bought a few affirmations greeting cards, cut the cover off and scattered them around the walls as mini posters. On the way up, we stopped at New Italy, a very special road side stop with authentic Italian cafe food. It was a little bit out of place, but they also had a rack of affirmations cards so I bought a few more and added them to the caravan walls.

"Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for."

"Only as high as you reach you can grow, only as far as you seek you can go, only as deep as you look you can see, only as much as you dream you can be."

"When you let go of what you are you become what you might be."

"Let your soul sing, dance, praise and love."

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Just Chillin'

Getting up and feeling warm in shorts and tee shirt

Joining the early morning walkers on the beach

Pancakes for breakfast sitting in front of a mirrored river

Boogie boarding in foaming waves

Visiting the local bakery to buy fresh rolls for lunch

Playing scrabble sitting in the warm sun

Riding bikes to familiar jaunts

Getting soaked while walking in the rain on the beach (water fights in the shallows didn’t help much)

Relaxing in a warm and dry van while the rain falls and darkness descends

We have had the sun warm our bodies, the waves batter our bodies, the rain kiss our bodies, good food fill our bodies and the beautiful surrounds bring peace to our souls.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dusk and Dawn

Dad and I went for a walk last night, along the river and around the block of shops outside the caravan park. It was dark, a couple of caravan park lights, and the moon, were the only source of light.  The river looked like a velvety black ribbon, placed delicately upon the earth, the sky looked like a giant black piece of cloth that somebody had thrown silver glitter on.
Night and day fascinate me for some reason, the way everything changes when dusk falls, the way the sun sinks low, beneath the horizon, and the moon comes out, glowing silvery grey. The stars appear, sparkling in sky. Darkness floods everywhere, it gets to every place it can reach, it creeps around corners and sinks into ditches.  But then at dawn, the sun comes back, up from the horizon and floods the earth with brilliant light, it awakens the sleeping, even just the resting and the sky slowly turns to a brilliant blue.  The wonders of space, and the way the world works will always stun and amaze, but also impress me.

Today we awakened, slowly got up and got dressed, did the toilet trip, just the usual things. Dad worked for a bit and Mum and I went for a walk on the beach. We admired the sand and the surf, enjoying the nice flat surface of sand perfect for us the walk on.
for breakfast it was bacon and eggs on toast and some cooked tomato to accompany it.  We washed the dishes and then packed up our things, we drove down to Byron Bay because the surf out here wasn't to good.   Mum and I struggled to catch any waves in the particular spot we had not very wisely chosen, so we gathered up our boards and wandered down the beach a bit. Seeing as my surf board is a little big for me to carry, I did it with much difficulty. But we arrived in a spot we thought'd work, went in and the current was so strong in the spot that we could hardly stand up. Mum decided we'd better move a bit further down the beach so the current would just end up drifting us where we actually wanted to be instead of further up the beach where we didn't want to be. We gathered up our surf boards and walked further along the beach, I got there fine, but with a bit a difficulty and complaining, etc. We went out in this bit and it was no better than the first. We finally gave up and went back to where we started, we ditched our boards and just mucked around in the surf until Dad came in.  We told him about our pointless trip all the way along the beach and back and he said, "oh, you just have to go further out, it doesn't actually get deep for ages so you'll be able to stand" so Dad took Mum and I out to the back and we ended up catching a few waves, not what I would call a good surf, but it was good to be back on the beach after so long (well, since the summer holidays.)
We did some food shopping at the supermarket in Byron Bay and then for the rest of the afternoon we just sat around, soaking up the sun, listening to music, playing scrabble on the iPad, all the kind of lazy afternoon stuff you do.
We had  a shower, played a bit more scrabble and then had dinner. Dad cooked up something like a noodle stir fry with prawns and  vegetables. Yumm.
Now we'e all just sitting around after dinner, as we usually do, Dad's doing some more work, Mum's on the iPad and I'm writing this blog.

Outside, dusk has fallen, dark is creeping in, and everything feels right.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

As beautiful as we remember it

Boy it's a long way from Melbourne to Brunswick Heads. Two long days of driving and then a half day to finish off. We arrived safe and somewhat weary around lunch time. We are in the same spot we had the first time we came here, right on the river front, it is as beautiful as ever.

The unpacking was followed by a brief stop at the local shop for basic supplies and then the obligatory walk on the beach to re-acquaint ourselves with it. The late afternoon sun bathed it in a warm yellow light, the beach stretched for miles, tide out and waves crashing in, white soft sand, people strolling, walking dogs, fishing, sitting and breathing in the beautiful surrounds. Colin couldn't resist a quick dip and Johanna did cartwheels up the beach.

We walked back via the rock wall and through the local foreshore area. Music, people, tent and banner informed us that a concert for youth, organised and performed by local 'young people' was being held. We stopped to listen for a while, the band playing reminded us of the Waifs - we had been listening to a CD of theirs on the away up. Johanna did some screen printing on a singlet top and we got served fresh local fruit (for free)

This is one of the reasons we love Brunswick Heads so much. Unpretentious, it still has that small town feel. The local shops are all in a square block, the local pub is family friendly and a meeting place, the locals are an arty, alternative bunch, lots of tie dye clothes and organic produce around here. I wonder if this is how Byron Bay used to be, before it got so trendy and touristy.

Aaaah (sigh)

As driving days go, this is close to as good as it gets. The previous Goulburn to Coffs haul is 700+ kms, a long day in anyone's books but when that means cruising at 90 and crawling up hill, it is a marathon. But with a short 250 left, there is a sense of celebration when we climb wearily out of the car at Coffs. Last night we 'celebrated' by eating out at a little Vietnamese place.

"the river at Ulmarra"

The drive from there to here is a beautiful one. After Grafton we drive alongside the northern rivers, slowing as we move through picturesque sugar cane towns. We stop for morning tea at New Italy, a rest stop with museum and set up celebrating the Italian immigrant pioneers who settled and shaped the area. We are thankful for good coffee and excellent morning tea.

And then we hit the hills at Ballina that signal we are nearly there. We go up and down for the last hour and then finally that short 10 minute stretch beyond Byron when the long hours seem all worth it ... we sense Brunswick Heads' welcome.

It never disappoints.

"The Lucky Wonders"

The river, is calm and peaceful, a father and son paddle smoothly and lazily past the back of the yurt as we unload. We potter as we unload, content knowing we're got a week and half of slow. We wander to the shop to get rice to pad out the left over Vietnamese. We walk across the footbridge to the expansive beach full of slow walking locals and visitors and wonder at how beautiful it is. I go for a dip. There is a bloke on the beach fishing in the shallows. He's driven his 'real' 4WD down onto the beach, looks like he lives in it. He catches a brim (for dinner). We wander to the break wall to see if anyone is catching fish there. Then back past the park and discover a little festival celebrating local talent. We listen to and enjoy a band called The Lucky Wonders and buy their CD. Johanna gets a screen print done on a white singlet for $5. A lady in purple trousers walks among the people seated on the grass and hands out free fruit.

Aaah. Brunswick Heads. You are good for the soul.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Holiday Station

It feels as if I've been a train for so long, pulling into the same stations, at the same times, doing the same things everyday. But right now, I've started on my journey to one stop, one stop that I'll stay at for a couple of weeks, I'll relax, put my feet up, and completely forget everything about anything to do with life in Melbourne.

I'll be pulling into Holiday Station, a wonderful place which can relieve stress, boringness and pretty much anything unwanted in my life.

At Holiday Station, there's waves, and sand. And the air is filled with smells of delicious food prepared by the best chef around, (Dad.)

But there's always the journey to get to Holiday Station, the long, tiring days, where there's nothing but, sitting, listening and watching.

Today we started on the road, we left home about eight o'clock and arrived here at about six thirty, with stops every couple of hours of course.

I spent the morning listening to music, then the afternoon having competitions with Mum and Dad, to see who can spot certain things out the windows first.

It was Mc Donalds for lunch and a smoothie from Hungry Jacks for afternoon tea, it was a relief to have some salad for dinner.

Tomorrow we'll continue, another long day, sitting listening and watching. We'll stop overnight in Coffs Harbour and then finish our journey to Brunswick Heads by lunch time on Saturday.

Everything's peaceful at the moment, Mum and Dad are on their computers and I'm on the iPad, yes, we're on Holidays but we can't leave behind our beloved electronics. :D

I think we're all looking forward to a nice sleep tonight, and then back on the road tomorrow.

big broad land

The drive out of Melbourne up the Hume is both dull and exhilarating. The double lanes stretch out before you and wind lazily through seemingly endless hills and shallow valleys. Today the sky was huge. Not even a wisp of cloud for most of the day, stretching over bone and green fields. Our usual first stop is Governors Hill, Goulburn, 650 clicks at 80-90km/h is a long day. The last couple of hours took as long as the rest of the day.

We played music and played games. As we rolled along, and the road disappeared underneath us, I imagined I was swallowing and absorbing the scenery as it rushed toward us. I felt very privileged to live in this big broad land.

...and now we're absorbed in front of key boards, checking mail, reading news and allowing our minds to move from Brunswick mode to yurting mode. I remind myself of our yurting mantra:

Don't rush.

Don't complain.

What happens happens.

Tomorrow's drive through Sydney and up towards Coffs is probably the most interesting but is the toughest with the van in tow. I'm looking forward to a good snooze.

Just past Byron the road changes from bitumen to concrete. At that point there will only be a few minutes before we pull off into Brunswick Heads. I've been anticipating that moment for a while now ... only a couple of days to go.